Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to direct 2017’s weirdest mainstream movie. The Shape of Water, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay, reminds us that this guy is a genius. He’s sick and twisted, but a genius nonetheless. The story, set in the 1960s, is—in some strange backwards way—as close to a Disney movie as del Toro has gotten. It has a lot of violence, inter-species sex, nudity and cuss words in it, and yet it has a Disney kind of vibe to it. That del Toro—he’s a nut. Sally Hawkins plays mute cleaning woman Elisa Esposito. She lives in an old movie theater next to eccentric artist Giles (Richard Jenkins) and mostly keeps to herself. Elisa and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) clean for a freaky research facility that gets a new arrival—an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones, wonderfully obscured in practical and CGI makeup) to be housed in a water tank. The Amphibian Man, who looks an awfully lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is accompanied by his keeper, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a menacing man brandishing a cattle prod. Shannon is his usual incredible self as the film’s baddie, a freaky narcissist who gets off on torturing his prisoner. The film goes into romance territory after Elisa facilitates the Amphibian Man’s escape. OK, I know there’s a good faction of you readers who draw the line at human characters getting down with alien/god-like/Creature from the Black Lagoon characters, so this is your warning. It all happens off screen but, still, this goes against the grain for more than a few religions, so there you go. Overall, this is one of 2017’s great visual wonders, and a terrific showcase for Hawkins, Spencer, Jenkins and Shannon.

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