A ravishing, eccentric auteur's imagining, spilling artistry, empathy and sensuality from every open pore, it also offers more straight-up movie for your money than just about any Hollywood studio offering this year.
Stepping away from his big-budget studio work on Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak to return closer to the more artisanal territory of his memorable early Spanish-language films The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro delivers pure enchantment with The Shape of Water. A dark-edged fairy tale as lovingly steeped in vintage movie magic as it is in hypnotic water imagery, this captivating creature feature marries a portrait of morally corrupt early-1960s America with an outsider tale of love and friendship molded by a master storyteller.
There's something here for lovers of all kinds of movies - even silents and musicals - but del Toro transcends mere pastiche to craft a work that feels like the product of our collective film-going subconscious.
The Shape of Water not only entertains as a sumptuous fairytale, but it reinforces a faith in humanity set in a time where tolerance of other races, nationalities, and non-"family values" love was volatile. And it's percolating back to the surface again.
Del Toro provides just enough spade-work to keep the scheme plausible and his film is stylish and charming; red meat for the senses with some sugar on top.
It's a film that makes you feel a lot, but overridingly you feel lucky - lucky to be watching it, lucky that something so sincerely sweet, sorrowfully scary and surpassingly strange can exist in this un-wonderful world.
Guillermo del Toro channels all the streams that make him unique into The Shape Of Water, pouring his heart, soul and considerable craft into an exquisite creature fable.
The film is one of the director's most stunningly successful works, it’s also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free.