The Shape of Water

Rated 3.0

Guillermo del Toro directs this beautifully designed but clumsily arranged sci-fi love story about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls for a magical creature (a motion-captured Doug Jones).  Hawkins’ plucky Eliza pushes a mop at a mysterious research laboratory overseen by a teeth-gnashing sadist (Michael Shannon, of course), but the arrival of a strange, glowing, fishlike humanoid from the Amazon sparks something inside her soul.  Eliza enlists the help of her kindly co-worker (Octavia Spencer) and her closeted gay neighbor (Richard Jenkins) to free the beast, with Russian spies in pursuit while an unlikely romance blooms.  Although set in an unofficially segregated 1960s Baltimore, The Shape of Water drips with Amelie-like whimsy, right down to Alexandre Desplat’s concertina-heavy score.  The film has great pieces that rarely fit together, and the binary connections that del Toro makes between real-life civil rights struggles and merman love are fairly insulting.