In a work that shares the soulfulness of his Pan’s Labyrinth, writer-director Guillermo del Toro crafts a grown-up fairy tale set in an amber-glowing 1962 Baltimore. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute lonely heart mopping floors in a government lab, encounters a magical “asset” being studied and tortured by an obsessive federal agent (a superb Michael Shannon). The intensity of her connection to this “beast” changes her life.
The brilliant ensemble includes Richard Jenkins, playing Elisa’s artist/neighbor, and Octavia Spencer as her no-nonsense work buddy. Within this richly detailed wondrous world, del Toro magically weaves elements of horror, a Beauty and the Beast romance and sharp Cold War satire to unforgettable effect.