Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Orphanage

I loved Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone, so I was excited to see the latest film by Guillermo del Toro. What I didn't realize was that El Orfanato is "presented by" del Toro. He is credited as one of the producers--unlike Pan's Labyrinth which he both wrote and directed. The Orphanage was written by Sergio G. Sanchez and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Still, del Toro's influence is evident in the psychological horror flick--the preoccupation with orphans, supernatural and fantastical elements, the fine line between reality and imagination.

The main difference is that the protagonist in this story is an adult instead of a child. Belen Reuda gives a nuanced performance as a former orphan who, as an adult, buys the home she grew up in to care for special needs children. But when her adopted son Simon goes missing, she fears that his invisible "friends" might be more than a figment of his imagination. Part Pan's Labyrinth, part The Others and a dash of Poltergeist, this movie made the audience I viewed it with jump and gasp on a number of occasions. It scared me, too.

Like Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage weaves a fascinating tale with gorgeous cinematography and production design. You completely lose yourself and forget that you're reading subtitles. And, like del Toro's other films, it also has an ambiguously bittersweet ending. I wouldn't go so far as to put this one down as number ten on my list of my favorite 2007 movies, but it does not disappoint.

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