Last night I watched this film that won this year’s Academy Award for best film and best director (Guillermo del Toro). I am not really a fan of the fantasy genre (the scientific implausibilities grate on me even though I try hard to suspend my critical faculties) but found this film, despite some scenes of violence, to be quite a sweet love story. For those who haven’t heard of it, it is set around 1960 at the height of the Cold War. The US military has found a strange human-like amphibian in the Amazon and brought it back to the US to study in a top-secret facility.
The hard-nosed and brutal person in charge (played by Michael Shannon) decides that it should be dissected, to the horror of a mute cleaning woman (played engagingly by Sally Hawkins) and a scientist in the project (who is a Soviet double agent) who both see the amphibian as someone who has emotions and language capability and deserves to be treated with dignity. Hawkins, along with the scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg), her fellow cleaning woman (Octavia Spencer), and her neighbor (Richard Jenkins) decide to try to spirit the amphibian out of the facility and return him to the ocean. Hawkins and Spencer were both nominated for best supporting actress.
The film is a parable, showing that while Cold War ideologues in the US and Soviet Union are ruthless and tribalistic and basically awful people, ordinary people with shared values and a sense of empathy and compassion can come together despite differences in race, ideology, and even belonging to different species.
Here’s the trailer.