Romantic? Okay. Emotional? Most definitely. Sincere? Absolutely. But sexy? Not, at least, for me.
It’s not that my take is simply “eww, fish man”; director & co-writer Guillermo del Toro‘s surrounding aesthetic choices, both artistic and thematic, lack any subtlety or even nuance.
While cinematographer Dan Laustsen‘s colours are beautiful, Nigel Churcher‘s art direction is vivid and visceral, and Sally Hawkins, fishman and legendary cinematic contortionist Doug Jones and particularly Richard Jenkins give lovely performances, I find it difficult to feel sexy while also feeling infantilised by the rib-nudging, shoulder-tapping “Get it? Huh, huh?” portrayals of various explorations of otherness (be they species, race, gender or sexuality), just in case i didn’t get the message.
I’ll just have to take the word of (many, many) others that this is profoundly erotic.
But perhaps for other people, important, timely, even urgent messages about compassion (and passion) need to be hammered over the head. If that hammering takes the form of an original, creative film which manages to be at turns sweet, dark and delightful, then I’ll be first to say that we are all richer for it.
Lest I be accused of having no heart – here’s Lindsay Ellis explaining, presumably for folks like me, exactly why The Shape of Water‘s romance is affecting, to whom it most speaks, and the pop cultural lagoon whence it comes: