"The Orphanage stands up as a strong piece of art"
When Laura (the marvelous Belén Rueda) moves back into the house that used to be the orphanage she lived in as a girl, she is thirty-seven, married, and she and her husband have adopted a son - Simón, a little boy with HIV who doesn't know that he's terminally ill or adopted. Simón is wildly creative - he has several imaginary friends and a penchant for treasure hunts, mind games, and the story of Peter Pan. One day shortly after a mysterious visit from a social worker and Simón's revelation that he knows the truth about his adoption and illness, Simón disappears. The rest of the film follows Laura's desperate search for her son as she comes to terms with her loss and her own past as well.
Screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez does a masterful job of balancing the thriller with the drama. Laura's attempts to connect with everything that haunts her and her home are darkly touching, though slightly psychologically twisted. The acting is strong, and the directing, editing, cinematography, and music all work together well.
The Orphanage still stands up as a strong piece of art. The backbone of the film is undoubtedly the strong performance by Belén Rueda as Laura, who carries the entire film admirably. The film looks great, with stunning photography and very elegant sets and a gorgeous building standing in for the orphanage itself. Sound and music work very well too, and the film succeeds in working many small elements together (such as a playground hiding game and some very clever revelations towards the en.
All in all, the film is an accomplished piece of cinema and well worth seeing, although don't expect too much real terror as most of the chills in this film are poetic rather than gruesome.