Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water hit the Lido today and earned a long applause at the end of the press screening. Dreamy, emotional and impeccably crafted, the film will be a strong player this awards season, especially given Fox Searchlight is handling it. The first comparison that comes to mind when considering the Oscar potential for the film is last year’s Oscar and box office smash hit Arrival which earned its helmer Denis Villeneuve his first shot at Oscar glory with a Best Director nom.
But what makes The Shape of Water this year’s Arrival in terms of Oscar potential? Here are five reasons why:
Just like Arrival last year, the film focuses on themes of communication and love. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) was able to unlock alien language thanks to a compassionate view that allowed her to go beyond the fear and stereotypes and find a way to communicate with aliens whose purpose on Earth was unclear.
In The Shape of Water, similar themes are explored. The fish-like creature (referred to as ‘the asset’ by the government) is treated with similar fear and exploitation. On the other hand, the film’s protagonist, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is just as misunderstood. She is mute and living on the margins of society. In fact, her small apartment is on top of a movie theatre. From it she can take a peek at a world that shunned her, unable – or rather unwilling – to communicate. That’s when her relationship with this creature starts – communication that turns into a touching love story that completes and elevates their lives.
Arrival was an awards juggernaut especially in the technical categories where Villeneuve was able to lead a team of excellent craftsmen in several departments to create an engaging story that’s as touching as it is convincing thanks to unique sound design, superb VFX, a haunting score and incredible cinematography. Del Toro manages the same feat – and the film has several technical standouts: a perfect score by Alexndre Desplat, excellent production design particularly Elisa’s apartment, great sound design and superb cinematography.
Arrival was anchored by a tremendous performance by the bizarrely snubbed Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks. Here’s where The Shape of Water is similar and different at the same time – at the center of it is a wonderful and arresting performance by Sally Hawkins. But unlike Arrival, the film features a stellar ensemble cast with every member being delightful, powerful and convincing. Jenkins and Shannon are the standouts, Spencer is also funny and touching but it’s Hawkins and Jenkins who steal the show. Their moments together are among the film’s highlights.
Arrival and The Shape of Water are films with scope. With the Best Picture category, you need to appeal to all Academy branches who vote on the nomination in this category. And just like Arrival, the film will appeal to several branches particularly the actors (SAG ensemble nom is highly likely) and the below-the-line nominating branches: score, sound design, cinematography and production design.
Passion gets you a nomination for Best Picture – consensus makes you win. Arrival was an emotional experience from start to finish and that translated to passion. We expect the same to happen with The Shape of Water.
Best Actress – Hawkins
Best Director – del Toro
Best Supporting Actor – Jenkins
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing