My friend is a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro’s work, especially with the classic Pan’s Labyrinth. So she naturally had really high expectations. I just wanted to see a unique creepy film. Both of us left more than a little bit disappointed. If anything, we actually left laughing; shocked and amused by just how disappointed we were with the film. It pretty much felt like a remake of Pan’s Labyrinth, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast with a Cold War undertone. All old ideas mixed into a new film with fantastic cinematography but a poor script.
Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute janitor who works at a high security government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War. She’s first introduced to us going about her morning routine. She boils eggs on the stove, then sets an egg-shaped timer before dipping into the bath tub. The timer’s ring shows the completion of her morning bath’s masturbation and the eggs hardening in the pot. Cliche symbolism like these are scattered throughout the entire film, from the constant reappearance of the colour green foreshadowing the scaled creature, to the colour red after she consummates her relationship with the creature. And of course the shoe falling off in Cinderella-like fashion as she enters her new kingdom with her soul mate…
There were lots of opportunities to explore more unique narratives, from Esposito’s gay best friend, to her black co-worker. However, I found that the outcasts were given the same stereotypical scripts as they usually are in commercial films. So if you’re interested in the retelling of constantly told stories, with a Cold War angle, then this story is for you. For my friend and I, as well as many people in the audience, we might just stick with re-watching Pan’s Labyrinth.