‘The Shape of Water’ reviews: Guillermo del Toro’s fable ‘overflows the screen’ with ‘romance and adventure’

Following months of anticipation as it earned praise on the fall film festival circuit, “The Shape of Water” opened December 1 to enthusiastic reviews. As of this writing it has a score of 85 on MetaCritic and 95% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. Do you think it’s the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture?

“The Shape of Water” is directed by Oscar nominee Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), who is “at his visually distinctive best — and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance,” according to the RT critics consensus. Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito, a mute janitor in a a government facility where she bonds with an amphibian man (Doug Jones) being held as a test subject for cruel experiments.

The rave reviews say it’s “the greatest showcase for del Toro’s … delightful sensibilities.” He pours “his heart, soul, and considerable craft into an exquisite creature fable” and creates a “sumptuous visual world.” The filmmaker is “at his most poignant and sweet.” To date del Toro’s biggest awards success was “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), which won Oscars for its cinematography, art direction, and makeup, and also earned bids for del Toro’s screenplay, the film’s score and Best Foreign Language Film. “The Shape of Water” may be on track to do even better than that, ranking among our top contenders for Best Picture.

Do you agree? Check out some of the critics’ reviews below.

Jessica Kiang (The Playlist): “It’s a Cold War paranoia thriller, a 1950s-style creature feature, a quasi-musical cinematic nostalgia trip and a fantasy interspecies love story between a woman and a merman, so brimming with romance and adventure that its effect overflows the screen … It is the greatest showcase for del Toro’s mercurial, dark-tinged but delightful sensibilities.”

Fionnuala Halligan (Screen Daily): “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. A delicate homage, to both his forbears of Golden Age Hollywood and those who first captured the spirit of the monster myth, this is del Toro at his most poignant and sweet.”

Dana Stevens (Slate): “The scenes between the lovelorn Elisa and her piscine paramour sometimes attain the magical heights of what’s still del Toro’s masterpiece, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ … Even if you’re not transported by every minute of the film’s story, though, del Toro creates such a sumptuous visual world that it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times): “Its busy plot moves swiftly — the presence of Russian spies never hurts, especially when one is played by Michael Stuhlbarg — except when Mr. del Toro lingers over a moment of tenderness, a delicate joke or an eruption of grace. Ms. Hawkins and Doug Jones, soulful and gorgeous beneath his shimmering carapace of blue-green scales, supply most of those.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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