GUILLERMO del Toro movies can often catch you unaware.

The Mexican director is at his best when he makes strange, beguiling, intimate films that come across almost like a fairytale.

But then there is the moment in most of his stories where everything shifts, a veil is lifted to reveal something dark, sinister and dangerous.

Those contrasts in del Toro’s almost hypnotic work are what makes him a great filmmaker and the perfect director for The Shape of Water.

Largely set in a 1960s secret research lab, this multi award-winner has to be one of the strangest love stories in film history, painted in vibrant but surreal tones reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie.

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a lonely mute janitor, who falls in love with Doug Jones’ mysterious human-like aquatic creature.

He is being held in captivity and is the subject of cruel experiments during the height of the Cold War in a callous dog eat dog workplace.

Seeing the story through the eyes of Elisa and fellow janitor Zelda (Octavia Spencer) gives the film a fresh perspective.

Elisa is an unlikely protagonist who at first feels powerless to help the misunderstood creature, designed by Warrington’s own Mike Hill.

The Shape of Water’s good versus evil theme may be fairly basic but it makes it easy to empathise with Jones’ ‘monster’ and lets the strange yet touching love story take centre stage.

The tale is also full of wonderful metaphors and the outcome is widely open to your own interpretation.

Richard Jenkins is excellent too as Elisa’s friend Giles whose part in the story ties in with the wider themes of prejudice while Michael Shannon’s government agent Richard Strickland has a menacing presence throughout.

For a story featuring an aquatic monster, The Shape of Water has to be one of the most human films in years.

RATING: 8/10