The Orphanage

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

spain/mexico • 2007 • subtitled colour • 105 mins

Drawing upon children’s games, imaginary friends and the story of Peter Pan, this supernatural thriller presents a frightening adult view of childhood fears. Admirers of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth will notice his influence as a producer on this melancholy ghost story from first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona and scriptwriter Sergio G. Sanchez. That said, the two young Spanish film-makers have made this supernatural story their own In a role that is the beating heart and tortured soul of the film, Belen Rueda (The Sea Inside) gives an extraordinary performance as the thirtysomething Laura, who together with her husband and five-year-old son Simon (Roger Princep) is about to celebrate the opening of a home for physically and mentally challenged children. But when Simon vanishes, fantastical stories that her son has told her about his imaginary friends start to chime with troubling memories from her own childhood, as an orphan raised in this very house. Perhaps these disturbing, deeply buried secrets hold a clue to Simon’s disappearance.—Nigel Floyd.

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