The Shape of Water

Dir. Guillermo del Toro

In The Shape of Water, Del Toro has given us arguably his best, most satisfying work since Pan's Labyrinth. It's a wonderful, weird and glorious fairy tale of good versus evil, light versus dark, gods versus monsters.

Revolving around Elisa (Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky) and an 'amphibian man' (Doug Jones, Hellboy), the story tells of their otherness and how it brings them together in the most unlikely way. She is a mute cleaner working night shifts in a dubious government experimental facility. He is a 'monster’, seen as a god in his native country, where he has been captured from. Whilst cleaning in the lab where the ‘merman’ is held, Elisa develops a relationship with him which brings them into conflict with the real monster of the story, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon, Midnight Special).

The casting is excellent, but of particular note are Hawkins and Jones. Having no 'proper' script could trip many actors up, but they both manage to express the full gamut of human emotions through their body language and facial expressions. Jones stuns with his ability to give life to what is ostensibly a plastic suit with gills. Hawkins is mesmerising as a quirky, strong and emotional woman with a love of classic movies, music and dancing.

The pair are backed up by superb performances from Octavia Spencer (Elisa's friend, Zelda) and Richard Jenkins (Elisa's neighbour and friend, Giles), both crucial in the plot of saving the lovers and the overall narrative of otherness and acceptance.

Del Toro's passion for cinema is clearly evident in this film, with numerous Hollywood references, Fred and Ginger dance sequences, and a sumptuous colour pallet. But the true success of his efforts is that you leave with the feeling you have seen something unique. Del Toro's genius is in the balance of menace and hope, making you feel on the edge of terror whilst having faith that everything will be okay in the end.

Dawn Stilwell

Journeyman

Dir. Paddy Considine

A truly independent cinema, the Showroom works hard to bring special, often unique screenings and events to the city. As well as numerous opportunities to discuss films with filmmakers and those featured in them during each year’s Doc/Fest, Q&A sessions are run all year round. We’ve reviewed Q&A sessions previously – most recently, the satellite Q&A following Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow – and last month Diana Gibson attended one of the Showroom’s live Q&A sessions, following a preview screening of Paddy Considine’s new film, Journeyman.

It’s a love story about a man who’s been in love with his sport, his wife and his friends. The man in question, Matty Burton (Paddy Considine), is a boxer who sustains a life-changing injury. The film dramatises the fallout from that injury on him and those around him. Despite not being a fan of the sport, Diana found the film funny, sad and heartwarming in different parts, and it brought tears to her eyes at its most poignant moment.

The opening 20 minutes showcase the brutal realities of boxing with stomach-churning imagery. In the Q&As, Considine talked about his love of the sport and how he didn’t want to make ‘just another boxing film’. He also discussed why he chose Sheffield as its setting, referencing the feel of the city and its boxing heritage. The barbers and staff in hospital scenes are real professionals doing their day jobs. This adds realism in a way that chimes with the film’s facing up to some harsh realities about boxers’ lives.

See this month’s listings for the next live Q&A event, following a screening of William Badgley’s documentary about The Slits. The Showroom also hosts a monthly film discussion group and will continue to offer live and satellite Q&As, as well as providing other opportunities to discuss, ask questions about and otherwise experience a genuinely wide range of films.

Samantha Holland & Diana Gibson

showroomworkstation.org.uk/discussion-group

Film Listings

Hosted by Stephen Chase

THE WORK
Dir. Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous
Thu 12 Apr | 7pm | Regather | £7
One of the highlights of 2017’s Doc/Fest, The Work shows three men enter Folsom Prison to experience an intense four-day group therapy retreat led by convicts, raising questions about the nature of prison reform and rehabilitation, as much as their own personal journeys. Link

HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS + Q&A
Dir. William Badgley
Fri 20 Apr | 8pm | Showroom | £10
The story of one of the most original and influential bands to emerge out of the punk era, from their beginnings to the reformation of the band in 2005 and the death of singer Ari Up. Q&A with director William Badgley, and Tessa Pollitt and Palmolive of The Slits. Link

BLACK PANTHER
Dir. Ryan Coogler
Sat 21 Apr | 3:30pm (hard-of-hearing) & 7:30pm | Nelson Mandela Auditorium, SU | £3/£1.50
Ahead of the awesomeness/daftness that will be Avengers: Infinity War, here’s a chance to catch up on a film that feeds into the other plot lines, but stands firmly on its own feet, easily ranking among the best of the many superhero franchises. Link

GHOST STORIES
UK release: Fri 6 April
Dir. Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson
Dyson (League of Gentlemen) and magician/actor Nyman transfer their hit stage play to the big screen with uncanny tales of ghost sightings, featuring a cast including the ubiquitous Martin Freeman, Jill Halfpenny and Paul Whitehouse.