With films such as blockbuster monster action thriller Pacific Rim, Hellboy and Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth to his name, The Shape of Water shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Yet it does, perhaps.
And as such, this first Oscar for the prolific, but immensely thoughtful Mexican director is surely deserved.
It is there that the nervous, shy and lonely Elisa (played by Paddington the movie’s Brit actress Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaner.
One day that monotony and the facility's secrecy is shattered by the arrival of a mysterious oceanic creature that has the boffins equally excited and flustered.
Therein, her life takes on a strange dimension as well as an unexpected sense of humanitarian purpose.
Her isolation is swiftly shattered as she finds understanding, companionship and, ultimately, love with another being who, like her, is misunderstood and an outcast simply for being different.
Hawkins delightful and engaging performance is matched by Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help), playing chirpy, world wise black co-worker Zelda, who empathises with her colleague’s peculiar secret amid her own struggles, with racism.
Michael Shannon revives his villainous traits (as seen in Man of Steel) as ruthless, and increasingly desperate, government agent Strickland. And the enduring Richard Jenkins (countless credits including TV’s Berlin Station and the brilliant Six Feet Under as well as flicks Jack Reacher and Kong: Skull Island) is adorable as lonely gay artist Giles, neighbour to Elisa, and the film’s occasional narrator.
As a respected filmmaker who also invested in this arguably brave movie and came out with something memorable, del Toro deserves the ‘silverware’.
What is certain is The Shape of Water is an indelible story that is touching, surreal yet thoroughly plausible in its sensibilities all at the same time.
And that deserves an audience.