Warning: there’s a near-instant creepy vibe about this movie, and if you’re a big feathered chicken like me, you might want to find a buddy to watch it with.
A woman returns to the orphanage where she grew up, hoping to open it as a home for special-needs children. Her husband and young son, Simon, make the move along with her. Simon has imaginary friends who tell him secrets: that he’s just like them, without father or mother (he was secretly adopted), and that he’s going to die (he’s HIV+ but doesn’t know it). And then one day he disappears.
It’s hard for me when watching a subtitled movie to really pay attention to anything else, but this movie really got me. The young actor, Roger Príncep, is very good. Love his little curls and his long-lashed eyes. He’s young but well-cast and capable. Belén Rueda, as his mother, plays against him very well and the relationship feels genuine.
There’s some classic horror movie elements here, strange noises and loooong, eerie hallway shots that do nothing but disturb while heightening the anxiety. I had LOTS of anxiety watching this movie and usually stay away from the genre altogether, but our weekly theme of ‘fairy tales’ gave me the push I needed to give this one a try.
The home is too beautiful and interesting to be an orphanage but it’s lovely to look at. The wallpapers are magnificent, the architectural details, the chair rails for goodness sake! I had to rewind a few times because I was so busy taking in all the lovingly layered details that I occasionally forgot to read! And then during scary parts, I tried to watch indirectly, hoping to minimize the impact of sudden, scary things that still felt sudden and scary nonetheless. And try as I might, I don’t speak Spanish. I understand resort words learned from vacations in Mexico, and the occasional bits and pieces that share roots with French. But you know what? If the director’s any good, there’s a lot being communicated in a movie aside from the spoken words. The music tells a story. The angle of the camera tells a story. The point of view does, and the tension in the silences does, and the shadows on an actor’s face do.
I barely made it through this but I’m so glad I stuck it out. There’s nothing cheap about this movie; it rises above its genre, darkly mixing fairy tale with horror, and it’s a really satisfying watch, if you have the nerves.