Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Watched: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

This is one of those movies that somehow you wish you hadn’t watched. Er…not to say that the movie is bad; rather, it’s so good, but the subject is so disturbing, that it tends to jangle you a little bit.

So- this is the story of Laura who adopts a marvelous, angelic little boy called Simon. She and her husband Carlos, and Simon live in a cavernous, hulking mansion that used to house an orphanage before. (Also, Laura had been adopted from this same orphanage years ago.) Soon after moving in with them, Simon begins to play with some imaginary friends, and this is where the proceedings turn distinctly creepy. Then Simon disappears, and Laura is convinced that one of the creepy imaginary friends has made off with him. The rest of the movie follows Laura on her obsessive hunt for her missing son- they seek help from a medium, who gives them clues, but the husband refuses to believe them. (The whole seance, as it were, is one of the more wrenching scenes I've ever seen in a movie.)

Saying anything more would be giving away the plot entirely. Suffice it to say that the ending broke my heart. The dark, gray, brooding mood, Laura’s agony, and the entirely irresistible child she loses, all contributed to my realization that…er…maybe I shouldn’t be watching at all. That said, the actress Belen Rueda as Laura is amazing. And the director is quite brilliant in his subtlety, a great blessing because this could have been just a poorly executed, cheap-looking ‘horror’ flick- but thanks to his marvelous touch, such as the role of the lighthouse at the end, the movie is so much more than meets the eye. As the medium says to Laura, “seeing is not believing; it is the other way around.”
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