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I was prepared not to be a big fan of The Shape of Water. It looked twee and self-indulgent, and several people whose tastes I trust were lukewarm on it at best. The Hellboy movies didn’t do much for me, nor did Pacific Rim – but worse, I’d never really warmed to Guillermo del Toro’s biggest critical darling, Pan’s Labyrinth. I liked Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone, and I have a clandestine soft spot for Blade 2‘s comic book operatics, but more often than not I’ve liked del Toro’s endearing enthusiasm and the aesthetics of his films more than the films themselves.
Imagine my surprise when I really enjoyed The Shape of Water.
… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that good blog posts do.
I wanted to write about Happy Go Lucky, the Mike Leigh film that in some ways feels like the flipside to his Naked. Put the film’s main character Poppy together with Naked‘s Johnny (played to horrific perfection by David Thewlis) and you’ll get one of those matter/antimatter explosions obliterating half of London.
However, I didn’t want to write about the film immediately. I wanted my impression of it to settle. I needed some time to think about it.
About a month down the line I realise: I don’t remember the film all that well. That’s not quite true, mind you: there are scenes I remember extremely well, mostly the ones including Poppy (Sally Hawkins is pitch-perfect, and as a result veers sharply between endearing and irritating as hell) and her driving teacher Scott (Eddie Marsan deserves to have more of a career – he’s obviously no Brad Pitt, no hit with producers, but the guy has impressive acting chops). But the film has settled in my mind, a bit like soggy Weetabix. (Weetabixes? Weetabixi? Weetabixae?) And writing about it now, even if I were to highlight how compelling the relationship between Poppy and Scott is and how it develops subtly, suddenly becoming something very different… Well, I don’t think I would be doing the film or the actors all that much justice.
So, what do I learn from this? Mainly not to wait for weeks before doing a blog entry. Not to start up whatever game I’m playing at that time before I’ve done my writing. Not to be lazy and complacent. For now, though, I’ll leave you with one of the aforementioned scenes from Happy Go Lucky:
P.S.: For the record, whether my impression of the film has turned to milk-sodden mush or not: Mike Leigh, man, you need to find someone else to compose the music for your films, because the score for this one is twee and feels like reheated music for one of the more soporiphic Brit sitcoms from the ’60s. If I ever bump into you, I may just go off on a Johnny-esque rant about how insultingly bad the music in Happy Go Lucky is. So, if you wish to prevent that from happening, however unlikely it is, dump your composer. You’ll thank me.