The story is set in a Cold War-era America and follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins) – a lonely, mute young woman who works as a cleaner in a government facility.
Her life is irreversibly changed however when she discovers a creature in the facility and befriends it, finding out that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to love.Critics have been raving about this film since it’s release and some have even called it del Toro’s best since Pan’s Labyrinth so I was optimistic about the styling and spin that his direction would take on what is essentially, a Beauty and the Beast storyline on first glance.What I did find, however, is that this film is not the cliche or predictable narrative that I had first assumed when I watched the trailer.
What del Toro has managed to do is convey a classic fairytale storyline and bring it to a new audience, whilst also constructing an interesting social narrative- interspersed with conversations about race, gender, social class, and homophobia.Our protagonist Elisa makes for such an interesting character. Considering that she is mute, Sally Hawkins did a wonderful job of portraying a woman who you so desperately care about.
Her loneliness, friendships, and evolution as a character is inspiring and there were certain scenes when I felt her words wouldn’t have even been necessary to demonstrate the desperation of this woman. I also loved the regimentation of her life- and every motion that she made as a character was magnetizing, be it cooking eggs or her daily um..
alone time (?) in the bathtub.The supporting acts were also really lovable- providing a bit of light relief from what could be a heart-aching story at times- and our classic ‘villain’ character was every inch as gruesome as you could wish him to be.Visually, I also really loved this. The Cold War surrounding, the soundtrack and also the overwhelming colour scheme of green meant that there was such ambiance to the film that really put you into the 60s- with a constant crackling soundtrack and the decor to match.
Obviously, there were splashes of violence, blood, sex, and gore- but it definitely wasn’t done in poor taste or for the sake of it, in my opinion.Ultimately, a very enjoyable watch. A little slow in places, but a solidly beautiful, immersive and well-made piece of film. I’m not rating it higher as I don’t think it’s one that I’ll think about a whole lot after seeing it.
I read a review which said that ‘this is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve’- and I couldn’t put it any better if I tried.8.5/10