"The Shape of Water," directed by Guillermo del Toro, is a splendid Beauty and the Beast story, succeeding to be sweet, menacing, hopeful, thrilling, and finally affirming in. Some of us might blanch at the storybook particulars of this movie obviously--it's hard to do anything fresh with his done-and-done again idea, no?--but del Toro is skillful in balancing the needed balance between the sweet and the dour, the joyful and the threatening. Additionally, this is very much an adult film, not for kiddies, as the characters have genuine emotions expressed in authentic language.
That is, there is no shortage of f-bombs. Also done incredibly well is handling the sexual element that's usually obscured by sentiment and courtly sentiments; del Toro brings this aspect, and the entire premise, into a world we recognize, in this case, the early 60s in Baltimore. Time, place, inference, and the use of nicely chosen incidental details and art design set up the way the tale is conveyed. Most importantly, there is a human connection here, with the theme of loneliness being a primal driving force to seek love or revenge superbly embodied in fully rounded characters.
Visually, this is your typical del Toro production, with the deep, rich, dark color scheme, seamless editing, controlled and adequate contrast between the more human and banal world of the 60s and the more fantastical, menacing interiors of the more sci-fi sequences. Stand out performances from Michael Shannon, a grand and messed up baddie, and Richard Jenkins, who seems incapable of doing bad work.