Wednesday, 21 February 2018

'The Shape of Water' Review

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, cleaning lady who develops a close bond with a mysterious sea creature from the waters of South America. The creature is in danger as government officials look to kill him in use of research. With help from others, Elisa looks to break the creature out, allowing him to live freely.

On paper, a romance film with a mute cleaning lady and a humanoid sea creature as the romantic interests may sound too bizarre to be possible to work. It sounds off-putting and downright weird but in Guillermo Del Toro's latest film, The Shape of Water, it absolutely works. In fact, it works so well that it is the Mexican director's best work within his esteemed filmography.

1960's Baltimore provides a perfect setting for this forbidden romance as it takes us back to a time littered with strife over many different issues like segregation and homophobia that are highlighted in the film. Throw in power-hungry government officials and Russian spies amid The Cold War and you have a boiling pot of tension that looks certain to spill over. Each of these parts plays a huge role in building characters and the situations that our innocent protagonists find themselves caught in. Del Toro alongside co-writer Vanessa Taylor has packed a lot of detail into the film's script with each aspect having a point, leaving no loose ends or wasted plot lines.

Del Toro's films have been known for their beauty, both in the story and in production values. From Pan's Labyrinth to Crimson's Peek, Del Toro has shown that he has an incredible eye for detail as each shot he sets up is as meticulous as the rest. From the lighting to set designs, Del Toro makes genuine art with his films as he creates visually stunning set pieces. For this film, the camera is mainly in motion and is rarely stagnant which helps the film feel vibrant and constantly moving forward. Again, this helps in adding as much detail possible to every shot.

The Shape of Water's romance focuses undoubtedly on acceptance and loving others for who they truly are. Neither Sally Hawkins' character Elisa or the sea creature can communicate vocally with others which is the basic building block for this relationship to develop and flourish as the film goes on. This oddball romance undoubtedly is strange - with side characters questioning that - but it is one that is truly beautiful and displays the message of acceptance and embracing those for who they truly are and how they make you feel. It's deeply moving and touching as this pure love is infectious and enviable allowing the audience to become caught up in all of the drama. The film ends perfectly summing up the love from the film and the love we should aspire to receive/give with the poetic lines

"Unable to perceive the shape of you,
I find you all around me.
Your presence fills my eyes with your love,
It humbles my heart,
for you are everywhere".

As Richard Jenkins reads out those final lines and Alexandre Desplat's gorgeous score plays out, you will be sat in an emotional state of happiness whilst in awe of the beauty you just experienced.

Sally Hawkins is the star of the film in what is an Oscar-worthy performance as the mute Elisa Esposito. Despite being unable to vocally express her thoughts and feelings, Hawkins provides a powerful performance, showcasing an impressive range. Unlike many contenders during award season, Hawkins doesn't have to shout or deliver long monologues to leave a lasting and memorable impression. Her expressions and mannerisms perfectly capture how she is feeling, whether positive or negative and she makes the love between her and Doug Jones' creature feel genuine. If Hawkins role isn't believable, the film simply fails. Luckily, this is one of the best performances we've ever seen.

Hawkins is supported by a truly fantastic ensemble diverse cast, with each character having their own individual problems and wants that factor into the main story. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer play Giles and Zelda, Elisa's closest companions. The two provide an excellent contrast to Hawkins, both being very chatty against Elisa's silence. The characters are incredibly likable and add a perfect amount of humour without overdoing it whilst maintaining the seriousness of the film's situations and settings. In what could've been an incredibly cartoony villain role is the ever-intense Michael Shannon. Shannon borderlines at times on being over the top but it cannot be denied that he is constantly one to be feared throughout the entirety of the film. His unpredictability and short temper create a vast amount of tension and a genuinely frightening villain. Huge credit again must go out to Del Toro's frequent collaborator Doug Jones who plays his non-human role perfectly yet again.

Del Toro has created a genuine masterpiece that is equally narratively and visually stunning. Everything comes together perfectly to create an emotional rollercoaster of a film that will leave you feeling incredibly satisfied by the time the credits roll. Del Toro has crafted something truly special with this film and is one that I will never forget. Emotional and beautiful, The Shape of Water delivers on all levels.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

'Status Update' Review

Family problems mean that Kyle Moore (Ross Lynch) has had to move across the country due to his parent's separation. Settling in at a new school isn't going well until Kyle goes to get his phone fixed at a local mall. In doing so, an app called Universe is put on his phone and anything he posts will come true, giving Kyle the ability to make whatever he wants to come true. 

It's safe to say that after seeing the trailer and poster for this film, my expectations were not very high when it came to seeing Status Update. The target audience for this film is undoubtedly teens, with its high school settings, heavy use of social media and young Disney channel related actors. With this, the film has a responsibility to put out something that isn't particularly harmful for the young viewers despite the overall quality. Although the film is terrible in its own right - we'll get to that later - but the biggest crime is how the film represents many things such as sexuality and use of social media.

If there was ever an example of how diversity in film shouldn't be handled, it would be Status Update. The film features a fairly diverse cast and group of characters but it is how they are represented and how they act that is the problem. The minority characters in this film are delegated to being losers, jerks or carry out terrible actions. This most evident comes with the homosexual character in the film who is handled terribly. It's hard to believe that nobody saw a problem in production around this representation. The gay character in this film is insultingly stereotyped, violent and sexually assaults the main character. This is all played off as humour to make things worse and it is shocking to see that this was carried out. Sexual assault is apparent again in the film and again, its played off as humourous. Maybe it's just the current climate but I certainly don't think this should be something that's made a joke of, especially when targeting to young impressionable people.

The film could have clawed back some humility if it even had a valuable message about the use of social media but it even fails miserably at that. Obviously, the use of social media is the main aspect of the film but the film seems to take away from the severity of actions online. In a particular scene featuring main character Kyle and his mother, she seems to talk to him about how what he posts isn't that significant and takes away from the effects in real life. Again, with the targeted demographic, this is a terrible message to be sending out to the intended target audience. This part really surprised me the most as the film's concept is the abuse of a social media app but yet, the film doesn't do anything to really nail that message. 

Although the harmful and offensive aspects of the film may be out of the way, the film's quality does not get any better. We follow Kyle Moore, a teenager whose parents are separated and he wishes his life could go back to normal. Now, this film gives Kyle the opportunity to wish for whatever he wants but he doesn't really do that at all. He makes vague changes to his problems when he has the problem to solve them entirely. In all honesty, this just makes the character seem fairly stupid. To top this off, the writing of the film makes him completely unlikeable in part reason to that. He has this ability to do as he wants but he focuses on different things. I know you have no movie if the character just does everything perfectly but there is nothing to gravitate you to liking or caring for this character. Olivia Holt's character is the only character worth caring for but the problem is that shes tossed to the side easily only to forgive Kyle once he decides he's sick of being with someone else.

There are musical numbers in this film that feel incredibly awkward and not organic at all. There's a full scene where Kyle sings and dances like Bruno Mars as the whole school turns into the cast of High School Musical. This isn't a fantasy scene or anything and is played off to be real but the film isn't a musical. With this, the whole scene is incredibly cringe-inducing and lasts for far too long. The main song of the film 'Drowning' does look to claw some dignity back to the film but it is again let down by the fact that it doesn't seem genuine. A few catchy musical numbers can go along way in making a film somewhat enjoyable, yet there's no sense of personality or emotion in any of these moments to give you that feeling. Instead, it just wastes more time and makes the film seem even more soulless.

It's no surprise to see that there is little information regarding Status Update online at the moment. It doesn't seem to have had a wide release which may be a good thing. To those who look at this film and think it may be a fun film to pass the time with, don't waste your time. This film certainly does much more harm than good and really should be avoided at all costs.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars