Fantasy movies are my jam, and Guillermo del Toro made his mark on the genre in 2006 with the gorgeous, haunting Pan’s Labyrinth. Now he’s back with The Shape of Water, which tells the story of a mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works the night shift at a government laboratory in the early 1960s.

Her daily life is routine and boring — until the lab receives an “asset” (played by Doug Jones) that it must keep under wraps. It’s some sort of humanlike amphibian creature (del Toro said he was inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and it shows) captured by the cruel Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon, who’s just so good at being bad). Elisa starts secretly spending time with the creature and grows close to it. And you already know that’s not going to end well, right?

Right. So of course Strickland wants to kill the creature and carve it up for research. When Elisa learns of this plan, she must try to enlist her co-worker (Octavia Spencer), her neighbor (Richard Jenkins) and maybe even the lab scientist Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, who’s having one heck of a year) to help her save the creature in time.

Hawkins and Jenkins are standouts amongst the top-notch cast. Their characters’ friendship will melt your heart. And the movie is just lovely both to look at and in its message. I was thrilled that it is leading the pack in Golden Globe nominations after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. Can multiple Academy Award nominations be far behind? I think not!

The Shape of Water is rolling out in theaters across the country as I write this. Don’t miss it!