Elisa (Sally Hawkins) has been mute since infancy and speaks in sign language. She works as a cleaner at a large research facility with her friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), -who chats enough for both of them- and spends her free time with her friend and neighbour, an artist called Giles (Richard Jenkins).
During her time cleaning up the suspiciously bloody messes at the facility, Elisa comes to know one of the research specimens; a humanoid aquatic creature (Doug Jones) with whom she shares a bond of boiled eggs, sign language lessons and music. Unfortunately, the scientists and military personnel at the facility, particularly the fairly unstable Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon), do not have nice plans for the amphibious man and Elisa becomes determined to save her unusual friend.
An unusual love story between a creature worthy of the Black Lagoon and an imaginative and adorable, but lonely woman. The film begins fairly slow-burning and took its time to introduce the set up and characters, but enjoys some more outlandish scenes within the imagination of Elisa. The film explores the nature of the loneliness of being different and touches on some prevalent topics from '60s America, including race and sexuality and the lingering distrust from various global tensions (most notably, of course, the Cold War). Hey, guess not much has changed, really.
The effects are, as ever with the works of del Toro and with the characters of Doug Jones, exceptional and both very realistic and fantastic in their strangeness.
A film that manages to be peculiar, haunting and, at times, humorous, as well as delivering a thoughtful and entertaining piece of cinema. And a nice, cerebral (and oh, so weird) link to the Hellboy universe. It deserves all the awards it can hoover up, in my view.
[Image: Double Dare You Productions, et al]