Adventure Drama

'The Shape of Water' TIFF 2017 Review: Beauty in the eye of the beholder

September 14, 2017Ben MK

Too often in genre films, the non-human creature is regarded as the monster, and the women are either damsels in distress or "final girls." Then there are movies like Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which turns genre conventions on their ear to tell an entirely different type of story.

A variation on the King Kong or Beauty and the Beast narrative, The Shape of Water isn't — as some might wrongly imagine — a tale of terror. What it is, though, is the story of what happens when two outsiders fall in love. Only here, those two outsiders happen to be a mute janitor named Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who works at a top-secret U.S. government research facility, and the facility's newest, most valuable asset (Doug Jones), an amphibious fish-man whom military officials are hoping will give them an edge in the space race with the Soviets.

Setting the film in 1960s Baltimore, del Toro uses the racism, sexism and homophobia of the era to remind audiences that outsiders are not bred, but are a product of the misguided views of their society. Timely, surprisingly sensual and bolstered by a stellar cast, the result is one of the most magical and moving films of the year.

The Shape of Water is receiving its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2017's Special Presentations programme. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 3 min.

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