NEW YORK - "The Shape of Water" has earned more Golden Globe nominations than any other movie this year, garnering a total of 7 when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their choices of the year's best films earlier this week.
The movie helped restore my faith in film making after a year of mostly mediocre pictures.
It's a labor of love from Mexico's Guillermo Del Toro, who gave us "Pan's Labyrinth" and other great films. The premise is unusual, so my main mission here is to find the words to convince you to see it.
"The Shape of Water" is being called both weird and wonderful, and to that, I add bizarre but beautiful. It is a fable with a unique relationship between a human being and a beast at the heart of the film. The aquatic creature has been brought from the Amazon rain forest to a top secret U.S. government lab in the 1960s, where custodians played by Olivia Spencer and Sally Hawkins do their best to keep the place clean and stay out of the way of a mean boss played with great menace by Michael Shannon.
"She deaf?" he inquires about Hawkins' character, before Spencer's character explains her co-worker is mute but can hear.
The boss explains to them, "You clean the lab. You get out." But they are still around when a mobile tank arrives with the creature inside.
First, we see his paw, then more. The men see him as a monster, but to Hawkins' Elisa, he is a kindred spirit.
"When he looks at me, he does not know how I am incomplete," she says.
The mute woman lives above a grand old movie palace, where a sympathetic neighbor played by Richard Jenkins helps her to give the beast sanctuary after he escapes from the lab.
There is no shortage of special effects here, but inside the suit is a guy named Doug Jones, which says the director is crucial.
"If you don't have an actor inside the suit, you don't have a movie," said Del Toro, who has hired this particular actor six times to give the director's creations life.
Del Toro has made a masterpiece that is in many ways an alternative to the traditional Hollywood blockbuster: both more intimate and more ambitious in the way it transcends the obvious to tell a most unusual love story.
The movie is in just a few theaters now, but it will go into many more as Oscar buzz builds.
My wife doesn't generally like this sort of film, and Eileen was reluctant to watch it. She saw it to humor me, but she ended up loving "The Shape of Water."