Review: The Orphanage (2007)

The Orphanage

The Orphanage



Juan Antonio Bayona


Sergio G. Sanchez


100 min.


Beln Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Prncep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andrs Gertrdix, Edgar Vivar, scar Casas, Mireia Renau, Georgina Avellaneda, Carla Gordillo Alicia, Alejandro Campos, Carmen Lpez, scar Lara, Geraldine Chaplin, Carol Surez

MPAA Rating

R (for some disturbing content)

Buy/Rent Movie



When a woman decides to return to her childhood home, an orphanage, her own adopted son claims he seems ghosts and disappears in the aptly titled Spanish-language film The Orphanage.

Spanish television actress Belén Rueda takes on the role of Laura, a suburban housewife who grew up in an orphanage. With her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), Laura has decided to set up a children’s shelter in the very house in which she grew up. The orphanage has been long abandoned, but he hopes that her charity will help kids as she was helped when she was younger.

Laura and Carlos have brought with them their adopted son Simón, who is afflicted with AIDS. They haven’t told him about the fact that he may soon die, but that doesn’t stop him from finding out the truth from his imaginary friends. When one of his friends begins a game of hide-and-seek, mother and son run wildly around the house trying to find Simón’s lost/stolen token.

During a welcoming party for several of the children, Simón goes missing, leading Laura on a frantic search to find him, creating a rift between her and her husband. She tries everything she can to find her boy: playing hide-and-seek and other childhood games and even bringing in a psychic played by Geraldine Chaplin.

There aren’t many movies made like this anymore. Turning away from the bloody excesses of a genre that exploits teenage audiences, The Orphanage looks instead to the relationship between mother and children. There are some similarities in theme and style with Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, but the film easily stands on its own.

Juan Antonio Bayona’s feature film debut is an auspicious one. His style is heavily reminiscent of the taut narrative execution of Alfred Hitchcock. He allows the suspense to serve the story instead of become the story, unlike American director M. Night Shyamalan who has a tendency towards the opposite.

Shyamalan and Bayona may be working in the same genre and certainly share some similarities of style, but Shyamalan’s desire to trick his audience into a false belief differs from Bayona’s show-and-reveal techniques. Shyamalan’s films either utterly surprise the viewer or present clues that only a second viewing will reveal. Bayona not only presents all of the facts of the case up front, when the twist arrives, you aren’t left wandering what you missed because it was all right in front of you and the way he shows you the information, recognition dawns almost immediately.

The Orphanage is a terrific little film that demands attention be paid without seeming like it’s trying to grab your attention. If you’re looking for a blood-drenched fright fest, this is not your film; however, fans of the suspense genre, who don’t mind an absence of gore, owe it to themselves to check the film out.

Review Written

January 30, 2008

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