Laura, a former orphan, raises her adopted son Simón together with her husband Carlos in an old house and former orphanage where she was raised. While at the orphanage Simón tells Laura that he has five invisible friends which she believes are a product of his active imagination. Laura decides to reopen the orphanage to cater for disabled children and throws a party. During the party Simón tries to persuade Laura to go and take a look at his friends cabin but she's too busy. Later on she sees a mysterious masked boy and realizes that Simón has also disappeared. Laura feels the presence of other people in the house and months later Laura invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Laura returns with her family to the orphanage she grew up in as a child, she reopens it for handicapped children and all is going to plan until her son starts communicating with an invisible friend.......
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona & produced by Guillermo del Toro, this Spanish picture is a delightful antidote to the ream of gore for gore sake movies flooding the market on a seemingly daily basis. This is not a horror movie as such, this is one of those pictures that oozes old fashioned values as regards telling a grand old ghost story with mysterious undertones. The setting is perfect, the orphanage of the piece is a ghostly monolithic structure that has all those perfectly shadowy rooms that are hiding secrets, expansive gardens perfectly framed in aura by Bayona's willingness to let the setting be an integral part of the story. The story is a creepy one, and there is always an added air of unease when children are the focal point of the piece in question, and sure enough this central concept of troubled children and troubled childhoods gets the maximum amount of emotion from the viewing public.
It's hard to write anymore than I have without delving deeper into the story and it's significant turn of events, suffice to say I feel this is a wonderful creepy, and at times beautiful, film that prospective viewers would be better off going into devoid of any prior knowledge. Belén Rueda plays Laura and it's a marvellous performance from her, full of emotion and guts, she carries the film with skillful ease. Bayona directs carefully, and it's evident that he is benefiting from the guiding hands of his gifted producer, but his marker is here and I'll be keeping an eye out for future efforts from the young Spaniard.
A smashingly engaging film that is in the vein of Robert Wise's The Haunting & Alejandro Amenábar's The Others, so if you like real well told ghost stories that unhinge rather than shock you, get in the queue because El Orfanato is a real pleasure. 9/10
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