Don’t watch this film! I mean it, do not watch this film. It’s one of those films that’s actually impossible to sit down and watch. You do not watch this, you absorb it. You sit back and let it take over every single ounce of your being. You sit there and marvel at the beauty you see before you, this is cinema as art, and is one of the most awe-inspiring things you’ll see all year. Guillermo Del Toro should now be given free reign to make whatever film he wants. Actually, I’d love to see him do an episode of Doctor Who or Black Mirror. Every shot looks like a watercolour painting, full of the majesty of colours and wonder. The music too is superb, you won’t leave the cinema humming the melodies or anything, but it enhances every single scene it’s in, it really compliments the images to the point where it almost seems like the scenes were made to match up with the music, as opposed to the scene coming first and music being decided later.
It’s not just behind the scenes though, the people in front of camera help make this brilliant. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones deserve every accolade thrown their way. They’re mute characters who have to lead the film, that’s not easy. It could be argued that it’s slightly easier for Sally Hawkins as she at least gets sign language to utilise, but that’s like saying it’s easier to run a marathon with one leg than no legs. It still takes remarkable skill from her. Ordinarily this would be the best performance I see all year, but unfortunately for her, Three Billboards also exists. It’s a shame that both existed in the same year as it meant one had to lose out on deserved awards. Doug Jones is also pretty darn great in this, doing sooooo much with body language that you kind of don’t realise he’s not speaking, he doesn’t need to.
The supporting cast also pulls their weight, obviously since Richard Jenkins got nominated for best supporting actor. Michael Shannon also deserves praise. His character is utterly reprehensible, partly due to the writing, but also due to how he plays it. He completely loses himself in the character, holding absolutely nothing back.
My main issue with this film? It’s really hard to criticise. It’s all so beautiful, everyone is so great, and the story is so heart-warming and emotional, it ties all the loose ends up but also leaves room for different interpretations and questions about the characters. That’s why this review has been so hard to write, it’s difficult to make “this film is amazing!” into a compelling piece of writing. That’s my opinion though, others think differently. Not many others though, mainly Rex Reed from the New York Observer. Who wrote (and I won’t link to it, I don’t want to increase his views):
“This horror film masquerading as a fairy tale is about a mute woman who cleans toilets, scrubs floors and falls in love with a monster from beneath the sea. The pathetic girl is played by the wonderful British actress Sally Hawkins, who specializes in defective creatures herself.”
A few points: 1) it’s not a horror film. At all, it’s a fantasy film. It may use a few horror tropes and conventions, but it’s still at its heart a fantasy film, albeit one aimed at adults.
2) “pathetic girl”. Fuck you. Fuck you in the ear. She’s not pathetic, and if you think that then I worry for you.
3) “defective creatures”. Ok, this is just a horribly offensive comment. Just because someone is mute does not make them a defective creature you ableist asswipe.
The review only goes downhill from there, referring to Get Out as “overrated piece of junk” and getting the director’s name wrong. Look, I know Benicio Del Toro is a good actor, but he’s not a director. Yes, they have similar names, but you can’t call yourself a film reviewer if you can’t distinguish between the two. It would be like getting Billie Joe Armstrong and Billie Jean King confused. I find negative reviews fascinating when they’ve clearly not actually watched the film. The best example of this was Toy Story 3 where the reviewer seemed to only watch the opening 5 minutes, getting the villain wrong, the story wrong, and his final mark wrong. Don’t be like that guy, don’t be wrong. Buy a ticket to Shape Of Water and revel in its greatness, you’ll thank me.