Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim) never ceases to create beautiful effects for his visionary films. The imagery throughout The Shape of Water is consistently fluid and spectacular. There is one scene where we get to see two raindrops dance around on a bus window, acting as a metaphor for the story unfolding on screen. There is blood and gore involved, but only the necessary amount for us to enter the world that the screenwriters have created. This is not a film for children, but for a mature audience that can handle the darkness of a spy thriller and the nudity that comes with a full love story. To gently push the audience through the film, Alexandre Desplat (The King's Speech, Argo, The Queen, Philomena) contributes a smooth score that juggles between intensity and charm. The orchestral score fits with every single scene, settling and unsettling the audience at certain times.
I would go amiss without acknowledging the cast members that bring the story to life. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) easily gives the best performance of the year with her portrayal of a mute janitor. While she cannot talk, there is emotion behind every sign that she gives. Alongside Hawkins, Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) plays a fantastic sea monster. Rounding out the cast, Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) is a scarily bigoted villain. This is the big bad role that Shannon has perfected throughout his career. Finally, the support for the main roles are brought to the screen by three well-seasoned actors. Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me by Your Name) are all great additions to the film. Overall, this is a top-notch cast brought together to create a top-notch film.
The Bottom Line: The Shape of Water certainly deserves all of the Oscar-buzz that it is receiving because of its tender and yet unsettling approach at a love story.