Next Wednesday’s film – The Shape of Water – is a modern fairy tale that is both startling and uplifting

The cinema of Guillermo del Toro is notoriously dark and troubling and, although his latest film is notionally set in the US of the 1960s, it is a typically fantastical alternative version of those troubled times.  Beset by racial segregation and Cold War paranoia, this is a society frightened of anything not cast in its own image, exemplified by Michael Shannon’s terrifying performance as the embodiment of Government’s heart of darkness.

Determined to undo his crimes is the film’s unlikely protagonist, office cleaner Elisa Esposito, played by Sally Hawkins in a part that couldn’t be further from her outing in Paddington, notwithstanding curious parallels between the two films.  For this film is also about how we treat those different from ourselves, albeit a difference this time of sex, colour, and the ability to breathe underwater. As the wordless relationship develops between a strange, captured creature and a mute, emboldened functionary, we see a love that dare not speak its name not only blossom, but do so in a way that is both startling and uplifting.

Packed with quirky, arresting detail and beautifully filmed by Dan Laustsen, this week’s Corn Hall film is a modern fairy tale that explores very adult themes – not least the need to find the tolerance and resilience that is hopefully locked up in all of us.

By David Vass