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Michael Stuhlbarg (#110 of 3)

Toronto Film Review Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

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Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is an ingenious crafter of dioramas, of which The Shape of Water, a Cold War-era drama tinged with elements of the paranormal, is no exception. Yet where Crimson Peak’s clutter of dilapidated, rotting luxury felt like the jumping-off point for the Mexican filmmaker’s imagination to run amok, here del Toro appears restrained by the concrete and steel of an underground research facility. The setting yields an inherent coldness that the film must work to overcome, and for the first time in his career, del Toro visibly struggles to reconcile his premise with its execution.

The film’s protagonist, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), is a mute woman who works as a cleaner in a classified government laboratory. Del Toro establishes her loneliness via montages of her daily routine that show her boiling eggs, swabbing floors, and, in the most obvious giveaway of her emotional state, vigorously masturbating each morning inside a bathtub. Limited in communication to signing with her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza largely keeps to herself, rarely making eye contact with superiors and expressing herself only in private.

Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

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Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

Sony Pictures Classics

Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming Call Me by Your Name, adapted by James Ivory from a novel by André Aciman, first earned plaudits at its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Less than a month later, at Berlinale, our correspondent on the scene praised the film for the way that Guadagnino funnels the romanticism of the film through an intimate character-based perspective. Call Me by Your Name, which has already been pegged as an Oscar contender, tells the story of the verbally and physically charged relationship that develops between a 17-year-old boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and the older Oliver (Armie Hammer), the new assistant to Elio’s archaeologist father (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

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Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

Sony Pictures Classics

Berlinale 2017: Call Me by Your Name Review

Those put off by the aesthetic flashiness of Luca Guadagnino’s prior two features, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, may be surprised by Call Me by Your Name’s relative stylistic restraint. The film, based on a 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, traces the maturation of Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), but the story’s coming-of-age arc is so delicately rendered that audiences may not even realize the growth Elio has made until they’ve had time to reflect on his behavior after the credits have rolled.

Romantic desire, both acted-on or sublimated through gestures, was the subject of I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, one that Guadagnino reflected through his impulsive filmmaking style. The roving camerawork, the lurid colors, and the operatic soundtracks all served to viscerally evoke passion, so much so that the characters at times barely needed to say any words to each other for us to grasp how they felt at any given moment.