Guillermo del Toro. I remember having little patience with his “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Despite the startling visuals, it was a monster fantasy beyond my interest.

With “Crimson Peak,” I still recall the nightmares I had from that house, the black hand on the little girl’s bed. Nightmares. Not my cup of NyQuil. I avoid writing about either.

“The Shape of Water” came along when I was prepared to review another film at another theater, but the schedule threw me into “Shape.”

But there was Sally Hawkins; the great Sally Hawkins who did not win me over in “Happy Go-Lucky,” but really knocked me out in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” and then “Maudie.” Wow, I thought, is there anything this plain as water lady can’t do?

So it was Sally, not del Toro, who drew me into seeing “The Shape of Water” — that, and the intriguing poster, Sally floating upward- downwards in greenish-blue water with “The Creature From the Black Lagoon.”

Maudie as a mute, doing nude scenes? Sally has sold out for a del Toro thriller? Brace yourself. There is more than the eye can see of Sally in this incredible film, and you’ll see more of her than ever before.

Sally comes to us here as Elisa Esposito, a sweet and fragile mute with those same deep, hungry eyes from “Maudie,” trading her arthritic limbs for a silent tongue.

Elisa lives a quiet life absent events of any kind. She shares an 1940ish apartment over an old movie theatre, with an aging, balding gay man (Richard Jenkins) deep in his closet of choice, who scrambles each day to sell his commercial illustrations. He and Elisa share dreams, care for his cats, watch old Hollywood musicals on a black and white television, and share meager meals.

Elisa works as a janitor for a mysterious government program buried in the bowels of a windowless building somewhere in the dark political year of 1962; where each day she goes to work with her co-worker and devoted friend, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer).

Together, they mop and scrub toilets and chambers full of mysterious, steaming pools and giant tanks of water — like gold fish bowls for Tiger Sharks.

All the while they endure the snarling, silver suited, Satanic-eyed Mr. Strickland (the ever evil Michael Shannon) who brought something he calls “the asset” back from the darkest pools of the Amazon — where it was considered a God by the natives (you’ll see why) — for clearly nefarious political reasons.

Always the curious cat, Elisa lingers with her mop and bucket and dust cloth. Then, when she, and we, aren’t expecting it, it’s there coming at her from deep in the back of the giant vial.

The creature (an amazing Doug Jones) appears in a stunning “Black Lagoon” silvery green skin.

Slowly, day by day, week by week, Elisa draws him from his tank, eyes at first, then hands; then, like a green matador, an Olympic winner.

He stands erect, glowing green, water flowing down a perfect physique. Elisa’s eyes widen, her lips part in amazement. If you have violins I thought, let’s hear them now.

This is a moment not seen since Gene Kelly spotted Leslie Caron, Fred met Ginger, or Garfield saw Turner in white shorts. Do not be afraid to gasp, everyone around you will.

And so begins del Toro’s greatest film: a love story that will weaken your knees, drench your Kleenex, thump and break your heart.

There is magic here, an astonishing dance number drawn from a black and white movie that will fling you from your seats.

Dan Laustsen’s camera is mesmerizing, Nigel Churcher’s art direction impeccable, Jeff Derushie’s makeup effects a sure Oscar winner. And Alexandre Desplat’s music sweeps and soars.

Not another word out of me but this: there is evil here, military, political, sexual. There is romance here, spoken and signed, whispered and screamed. There is magic here sparked from del Toro’s wand. The climax will grab your throat; don’t move, it’s not over.

Yes, this is beauty and the beast, but the creature is not the beast. “Shape” is about the emergence and acceptance of “The Other” in our new century. It’s the poetry of hope, of dreams and rebirth. When did you ever get all of that for the price of a ticket and bag of popcorn?

Bravo, del Toro, you’ve won me over.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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