The Shape of Water.

The Shape of Water

Beautiful. Yes, there’s more to Guillermo Del Toro’s otherworldly fantasy, but, for now, let’s just give a sigh of relief and enjoy the fact that this is, indeed, a work of beauty.

Are there real surprises here? No. This story, as we are told from the very beginning, is a fairy tale, and one that works out to not such a bad conclusion. But, as all good fairy tales do, it does take a while to get us to the happy place.

A splendid Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa, a mute who works at a high security government laboratory in 1962. It’s the height of the Cold War and the Americans are vying against the Russians over just about everything, including the very mysterious classified experiment Elisa and her fellow maids clean up after on the overnight shift. Elisa may not talk, but she sees a lot. She knows her black friend (Octavia Spencer) is true, as is her neighbor, a completely wonderful Richard Jenkins. It’s the boss assigned to the top secret that Elisa realizes is a bad guy. We know that because Michael Shannon, in yet another seething role, makes it rather clear. What none of us know in the beginning is exactly what is in the tube and how it can change everyone’s world.

Del Toro reminds us, in almost every scene, this movie is a romance, adding new definitions to that word as we go along. There’s something romantic about living above an old, echoing movie house, just as there is befriending the artist who’s just not born for these times. But as magical as it is, it’s the theme of the voiceless princess finding true love even as a monster tries to destroy it that keeps us on the semi-solid ground.

Audiences will have to go with the flow here, allowing themselves to be open to lessons about intolerance and acceptance that are not slapping them in the face. But even the intolerant can’t escape the majestic artistry that does, indeed, make every moment of this movie just beautiful.