Oh, I am so going to break my 10 word review rule for this one…
I think that I can say that without a doubt that this will likely be my film of the year, yes, even better than Wall-E and The Dark Knight.
But I ask, why is it that for the last few years, my favourite film of the year has always been a foreign film? For the last few years it’s been: Pan’s Labyrinth, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Oldboy, and now The Orphanage.
The Orphanage is a Spanish language ghost story, produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labrinth), but directed by first time director Juan Antonio Bayona. The basic premise is that of a woman who has purchased an old orphanage in which she lived in for a short period as a child to live in with her husband and adopted son, with the intention of starting up a new care centre for disabled children. Shortly after moving to the house, her son starts accumulating invisible friends and inviting them to the house, it is shortly after this that they start to believe that they are not alone in the house.
Now for starters, the very fact that it has (without spoiling much – hell you’d probably already guessed it) ghost children in immediately turns up the “I’m sh*t scared” meter up to 11, the only thing missing was a well (see the The Changeling and The Ring for that). But while it was decidedly creepy, it wasn’t as terrifying as some films, and it wasn’t the horror elements that drew me into the film. It was the human elements of the story which really got to me. Without spoiling anything, as a parent the story is a lot more unsettling and emotional.
I’m not ashamed to admit that by the end of the film I was crying buckets, and it was due to a mixture of both sadness and happiness. Also, immediately after the film I had to sneak into Elliot’s bedroom and give him a little kiss on the forehead.
Now, it would be easy to criticise some elements of the film, namely that some of the scares are cheap, it is a little predictable in areas (but not in everything) and also the fact that there are a couple of inconsistencies, but to hell with it, all those are swept under the rug as far as I’m concerned when put next to the rest of the film. I can also think of a couple of parallels to Pan’s Labyrinth, but again these are small and do not distract from the film.
So, overall, a wonderful, moving, scary, clever and very emotional film.
Also, I watched it on Blu-ray, rented from Lovefilm (but will now be forced to buy it), but boy do I love Blu-ray… Being able to rent films and watch them at home (on my admitably sizeable screen) beats going to our local cinema (which, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before – is crap).