The Orphanage

"Very Good"

The Orphanage Review


In a towering and creaking old beast of a building somewhere in a gorgeous coastal part of Spain, an attractive couple on the younger slope of middle age pass the days in enjoyable semi-solitude with their adorable, seven-year-old son. The building is actually an old orphanage, where the mother, Laura (Belén Rueda), spent her formative years and which she and her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), now intend to open again as a home for children with special needs. It makes sense; their boy Simón (Roger Príncep) is lonely and seems to be getting a little too involved with his two invisible friends, Watson and Pepe. One day, Laura and Simón go for a walk down by the sea cliffs and she loses him briefly in a cave. When she finds him, he appears to have made a few more imaginary friends. And things aren't quite the same after that in the orphanage.

In his stealthily creepy The Orphanage, first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona makes a decent bid for being considered one of the new wave of Spanish directors, and looks likely to be soon making the hop to Hollywood in the footsteps of the film's producer, Guillermo Del Toro. He's managed a very difficult task here in taking a large batch of genre tropes, from lost children to haunted houses to buried crimes and even lonely lighthouses in the foggy night, and made them all jump out of the precisely ordered mise-en-scene like they were freshly minted. Add to this the fact that his film shares so many stylistic and thematic characteristics of del Toro's (particularly The Devil's Backbone) that he had the added pressure of not aping his producer's work. Despite all this, on almost every level that it needs to, The Orphanage succeeds.

A lot of this is due to the top-notch cast that Bayona has assembled, starting with Belén Rueda as the mother, whose sense of guilt and loss, once she starts to get an inkling of the dark world she's led her fragile family into, is achingly real. Although having Simón be played by an actor of such endearing cuteness as Roger Príncep would seem to indicate a perverse or sentimental streak in the filmmaker, such worries are quickly put to rest by the boy's consummate skill. Most of the other adults are competent but mostly beside the point -- with the grand exception of a sly and sharp Geraldine Chaplin, playing a medium whose skills are called upon later in the film -- as the film centers for the most part around Rueda. To give away much of anything else about the story would be unfair; suffice it to say that Rueda's little nuclear family is hardly alone in their once and future orphanage.

Bayona and his screenwriter (the frighteningly talented Sergio G. Sánchez) have a wealth of influences here, mostly from the classic ghost story side of the horror film vault -- not to mention the glossy, crackling darkness of del Toro's work -- and they are deployed to maximum effect. Although not trading heavily in gore or shock value, there are a good half-dozen moments here of precisely calibrated fright that will reduce a number of people in any audience to quivering jelly. Making such moments all the more effective is the fact that the filmmakers here do not seem so much interested in sheer fright but in evoking a ghostly and otherworldly feel that seeps into almost every frame. This is a ghost story, for sure, but the kind that is more truly about the terror of and acceptance of death than anything else. To paraphrase an old saying, as long as people are afraid of dying, they will be afraid of ghosts; the makers of The Orphanage know that to be true, do they ever.

Reviewed at the 2007 New York Film Festival.

Aka El Orfanato.

Trick or treat.



The Orphanage

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th January 2008

Box Office USA: $6.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $44M

Distributed by: Picturehouse

Production compaines: Esta Vivo! Laboratorio de Nuevos Talentos, Grupo Rodar, Rodar y Rodar Cine y Televisión, Telecinco Cinema, Telecinco, Televisió de Catalunya TV3, Warner Bros. Pictures de España, Wild Bunch

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 150 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Mar Targarona, Joaquín Padró, Álvaro Augustin,

Starring: as Laura, Fernando Cayo as Carlos, Roger Príncep as Simón, as Pilar, Montserrat Carulla as Benigna, Andrés Gertrúdix as Enrique, Édgar Vivar as Balaban, Óscar Casas as Tomás, as Aurora

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.