THE SHAPE OF WATER Cert 15 Running time 123 minutes Stars 3

I’m surprised this fishy tale of aquatic love has made such a big splash at the Oscars, and being nominated for 13 Academy Awards is very much of a red herring.

A dark fantasy set in the early 1960’s during the Cold War, it sees a mute cleaner begin an amorous affair with an captured humanoid sea-beast. She is moved to pity, then love and finally to free him.

This curious hybrid is neither fish nor fowl. Imagine Free Wily being remade as a gothic fairytale with The Creature from the Black Lagoon having it away with Mrs Overall from TV’s Acorn Antiques.

It’s clear from an early moment of intimacy Brit actress Sally Hawkins, is playing a very different role to the maternal Mrs Brown in the Paddington Bear films. As cleaner Elisa she’s a romantic yet lonely soul. 

And her naked scenes with the rubber costumed Amphibian Man have an unfortunate Fifty Shades of kink to them.

The real monster on show is Michael Shannon’s evil head of security, who wants to see the creature sleeping with the fishes. And Soviet spies want the ‘asset’ for their own nefarious ends.

Following the box office disappointments of Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, Mexican writer, director and producer, Guillermo del Toro, has had to scale back his previously outlandish budgets.

Though the production design is typically detailed and rich, his use of locations, cast and CGI are kept to a minimum.

Del Toro’s heavy handed script sees many characters unable to give voice to their true identities, and are forced to live lives of compromise without love or face repercussions.

Following Hollywood’s ongoing sex scandals, this plea for tolerance, openness and inclusion is undoubtedly the reason for the film chiming so loudly with the Oscar voters.

With the message weighing down the entertainment, it’s mostly due to Hawkins’ impassioned performance this fairytale just about holds water.


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