Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
|Featuring:||Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Geraldine Chaplin, Montserrat Carulla|
|Director:||Juan Antonio Bayona|
|Producer:||Guillermo del Toro, Mar Targarona, Alvaro Augustin|
“A tale of love. A story of horror.”
After great international success and acclaim with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” director Guillermo del Toro lends his producing talent to first time director Juan Antonio Bayona for the haunting tale of a missing child and lost childhood in “The Orphanage”.
As a child Laura (Bele’n Rueda, “The Sea Inside”) grows up loved and adored by the staff of Good Shepherd Orphanage, a caring, nurturing environment with a pristine yard, overlooking a majestic ocean. She has many friends at the orphanage and plays childhood games until she is adopted and at seven years old has to leave her friends and the orphanage behind.
Thirty years later, Laura is married but her childhood memories are calling out to her. Her husband, Carlos, and her decide to re-open the now abandoned orphanage as a center for sick and disabled children. She imagines a place, much like the one of her childhood, where children are well nurtured and her own seven-year old son, Simon, can have a place to play and find real friends. Much like Jack Torrance’s son Danny (“The Shining,” 1980) all of Simon’s friends are imaginary.
At first apprehensive about the orphanage, Simon finds a group of new “imaginary” friends to play with. On the day of the orphanage’s opening, Simon disappears, sending Laura on a search for him into the the dark halls and haunted past of the building she spent her childhood.
The film is a ghost story that relies on atmosphere rather than gore and shock. There are no creatures behind the cupboards or in the curtains waiting to jump out on an unsuspecting victim. The film is more in the tradition of “Sixth Sense” and “The Others.” Readers who may have seen del Toro’s earlier film “The Devil’s Backbone” (which takes place in a group home for boys) will find familiar territory in this story.
Don’t be mistaken, the film does have its moments of suspense, and the atmosphere created by the filmmakers dwells in darkness and eeriness. There are scenes and images that are truly frightening. It is these images and overall tone of the film that warrant its R-rating, as there is very little profanity in the film since most of the movie centers around children, and though there are images that are scary and possibly horrific, there is little to no actual on-screen violence. An accident occurs that may be construed as violent by some film goers, but it happens so quickly that it leaves more to the imagination than what is actually seen.
The performances, particularly by Rueda, are very convincing. Watching Laura go down the downward spiral that occurs after her son’s disappearance brings the pain and suffering home to the audience. As she encounters the memories of the past in the facility, the dark sets and honest performances add an authenticity that may induce goose-bumps in some viewers. At the screening I attended, many around me were jumping in their seats on more than one occasion.
For those who are not afraid to venture into dark and brooding territory, “The Orphanage” will definitely provide you with some chills. Others that tend to want to stay away from this type of fare, lest you be haunted by the images of this film, you may want to stay away from “The Orphanage.”
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None
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