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Shape of Water, The


Stars: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Sally Hawkins falls in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In this dark, almost visceral fantasy, whose disparate elements sometimes clash uncomfortably with each other, Hawkins is Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner whose only friend is an elderly gay painter (superb Jenkins, who also narrates) with a liking for cats.

The place where Elisa and her colleague Delilah (Spencer) work is an experimental facility that has a human rottweiler (Shannon) for security and a new arrival: a gill-man (Jones) found, like the original, in the depths of South America,

The gill-man is tormented by the sadistic Shannon and treated with more care by Dr Hofstetter (Stahlberg). Alas, the latter is in the pay of the Russians, who want to terminate the creature before the Americans can cut him up for experimentation.

Elisa, meanwhile, is fascinated by the amphibian man. and uses her secret entrance to the laboratory to strike up a relationship - tempting him with eggs - before planning his escape.

There's quite bit of nudity from our Sally (the gill-man is obviously 'naked' to begin with), as they consummate their relationship (best not to ask).

It seems that the director wants to make a gentle fantasy, yet his own elements sometimes work against this, and, although the central theme is delicately handled, you may not know what to make of the end product, especially an outrageous black-and-white sequence in which the happy couple dance like Rogers and Astaire,

That Sally Hawkins, though: lover of a gill-man, mother to a talking bear and a disabled primitive artist, and all in the same year. The lady has talent all right, if not your everyday kind.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2017. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by deluxe.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 10 Feb 2018