Guillermo del Toroís fantasy-adventure The Shape of Water has been awarded the Golden Lion for Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival. Set during the Cold War, The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins as Eliza, a lonely mute janitor working in a government lab who along with her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) uncovers the existence of a strange amphibious creature that has been the subject of a classified experiment. Eliza and the imprisoned creature form a bond, but she soon learns that its life is under threat.

Del Toroís eclectic career began in the 1990s with his acclaimed early works Cronos and The Devilís Backbone, and then he pivoted to Hollywood to work on big-budget films like Mimic, Hellboy, Hellboy 2, Blade II and Pacific Rim. His 2006 work Panís Labyrinth is frequently cited as his best film and pops up often on lists of the best movies of the 21st Century.

The Shape of Water received its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 31st, and has now been awarded the Golden Lion for Best Picture (via Deadline). Early reviews of the film have been overwhelming positive, with many calling the R-rated fable del Toroís best film since Panís Labyrinth. Sally Hawkins has been singled out for particular praise for her portrayal of Eliza, and there is talk of the actress scoring her second career Oscar nomination.

The Shape of Water has been mentioned as a possible Oscar contender, and that case will only be enhanced after its win in Venice. Guillermo del Toro has long been a highly-respected director but his tendency to work in genre film has prevented him from ever scoring a nomination for Best Picture or Best Director, though he did receive a screenplay nomination for Panís Labyrinth.

Among other winners, the Best Director prize at Venice went to Xavier Legrand for the broken marriage drama Jusquíŗ La Garde. The big acting prizes went to Charlotte Rampling as Best Actress for her work in the Italian drama Hannah and Kamel El Basha as Best Actor for the French-Lebanese film The Insult. Best Screenplay was awarded to Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, his new film starring Frances McDormand as a grieving parent going to war against law enforcement in her small town.

The Grand Jury Prize went to the film Foxtrot from director Samuel Moaz. A Special Jury Prize was awarded to Sweet Country from Warwick Thornton. The festivalís Marcello Mastroianni Prize for Best New Young Actor or Actress was given to Lean On Pete actor Charlie Plummer, who will soon be seen playing John Paul Getty III in Ridley Scottís All the Money In the World, which also stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Spacey and Michelle Williams.