Stars: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy, Lauren Lee Smith, Nigel Bennett, Morgan Kelly.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor.
What a perfect blend of fancy, style, and sophistication within quite a small yet marvellous piece of craft that could have only of been produced by love of cinema — that fancy, the sincereness that openly homages the early 2000s masterpiece Amélie (2001) and yet adorns us with a classic in its own right. Guillermo del Toro's love for his work is striking in his adoration for beautiful creatures and small people who connect through their oddities and compassion.
Hawkins (playing Elisa) is everything you want in a lead actress. Her being dissolves into her character, her movements are Elisa, her voice is Elisa. She is unapologetic in her small life, she has a routine which makes her late everyday for ten years. It is her life and everyone around her while not content, but do not think too much further than the life they are leading—except for her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) who has a few regrets or two. And because of this routinely lived life, the introduction of our beautiful creature; The Asset (Doug Jones) is not the kind of fabric tearing moment it could have been in other films.
There is a true feeling of respect throughout this piece that seems to bleed from everything, from the creature design, set design, cinematography, dialogue, and most importantly from the actors themselves. Every actor allows each other to shine in every scene, it feels like a theatre community where the support is as essential as the main player in a scene. Michael Shannon (playing Richard Strickland) is a personal highlight, his ability to light up the screen with every beat of his acting yet allowing the flow and support to everyone around him is simply a gorgeous thing to see.
This film is pure movie magic, from the devotion to the literal love of the cinema and movie history, to practical makeup design with the blend of modern CG. del Toro is back in my happy place as a filmmaker who lets fantasy live in a little pocket of reality.