On Tuesday, I saw my most anticipated TIFF title, Guillermo del Toro's newest The Shape of Water.
While working as a cleaner at a government facility, lonely mute Eliza (Sally Hawkins) begins interacting with a humanoid creature being held captive there.
The Shape of Water was absolutely magical. During Cameron Bailey's intro he said that this was the film that del Toro had been building towards his entire career and the standing ovation that the film received afterwards would seem to suggest we all fully agreed. Del Toro had been working on this project for five years, all the while trying to make fifteen million dollars seem like fifty. He succeeded.
The Shape of Water was everything of which del Toro truly excels. It was a fantasy, romance, thriller and period drama separately and all at once. It could be the most arresting and sincere adaptation of Beauty and the Beast to ever exist, as well as his most effective and well-rounded exhibition of world building. This is what fantasy is all about.
|Sally Hawkins as Eliza in The Shape of Water.|
I knew I was likely going to like this movie, but even I was taken aback by how whimsical and funny this film was. Del Toro has made a career of being able to juggle the sweet with the horrific, but here he concentrated on the former. He was much more interested in the good in humanity this time around, and he used every tool at his disposal, even down to the colour palette, to foster this idea.
It was especially wonderful that all the TIFF screenings of The Shape of Water took place in The Elgin Theatre because this very theatre was used in the film. I loved the way it was utilized and the audience applauded when it came onscreen.
I haven't even gotten to the terrific cast of this movie. I had, up to this point, never seen Sally Jenkins in a film before and she was a vision here. Her emotional range and conviction of character was truly remarkable and I was reminded of Audrey Tautou In 2001's Amelie. Michael Shannon fit right in alongside some of del Toro's greatest villains and I also must sing the praises of supporting players Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Doug Jones had already cemented himself as the best man-in-a-suit actor in the business, but he really outdid himself this time. This was his crowning achievement in my opinion. Wearing a suit that took five years to design and manufacture, his performance was almost entirely practical and done with no motion capture. You could see that. He was a majestic and tangible being and the relationship had weight because of it. There was an incredibly organic presence to this piece that del Toro's previous picture Crimson Peak (though I enjoyed it) did not possess.
|Director Guillermo del Toro|
As you can tell, I am completely smitten with this film. If I see a better one at this year's TIFF I will be surprised. Del Toro could be accused of being overly sentimental I'm sure, but Goddamn it if that's not what we need right now. As he said during his lengthy Q&A, “Sometimes Jesus got it wrong, sometimes The Beatles got it wrong, but they both agreed on one thing – and that is love.”