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ORPHANAGE, THE: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Laura (Belén Rueda) has persuaded her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), to buy the abandoned orphanage where she was raised. They hope the fresh air and rugged setting in the Atlantic Northwest of Spain will provide a wholesome environment for their chronically ill adopted seven year old son, Simón (Roger Príncep). Laura even intends to reopen the facility as a home for children with mental disabilities. But then Simon's games with his invisible friends turns into terrifying drama when Simon himself disappears.

Review by Louise Keller:
This spooky supernatural thriller haunts on various levels as time frames merge and a woman's sanity is put on the line while she desperately tries to find her missing son. Invisible friends, evil spirits and strange occurrences form part of the threads of this acclaimed film. It won seven awards at the 2007 Barcelona Film Awards including best film and best actress for the superb Belén Rueda, who plays the vulnerable Laura. It is through Laura's connection to the orphanage that the film plays out, beginning with a glimpse of her childhood when she as a young girl played in its gardens. The film's heart beats for the unwavering love of a mother for her child, and on that level alone, the film tugs at the heartstrings.

Laura and her doctor husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) are desperate to give their adopted son Simon (Roger Princep) an emotionally secure life. Shielding him from his illness and keen to introduce him to other children who have special needs, Laura becomes troubled as strange events start to take over her life. The ghosts of the past come back to haunt her, just as the doors of the orphanage are about to be reopened. There are noises in the night, the visit of a strange woman and a treasure hunt that leads to unexplained mysteries and culminates in Simon's disappearance. 'Only you know how far you are prepared to go,' Geraldine Chaplin's psychic Aurora tells her, explaining that it is not simply a matter of seeing before believing, but it is vital to believe before it is possible to imagine the truth. Director Juan Antonio Bayona maintains tension with breathless claustrophobia as events become more and more complex. Perhaps the most terrifying and haunting images are those of children whose heads are eerily masked by sacks.

Central to the story is Laura's devotion to her missing son and determination to find him at any cost. Patience is required to stay abreast of the plot in this ghost story, but the rewards are considerable. This is a stylish and subtle film whose imagery lingers, just like that of the lighthouse as it sends a protective, invisible light on the darkest of nights.

Special features are a-plenty on the DVD, including a handful of featurettes, alternate ending and opening, extended scenes and storyboards.

Published December 4, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

ORPHANAGE, THE: DVD (MA15+)
(Spain/Mexico, 2007)

El orfanto

CAST: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Geraldine Chaplin, Andres Gertrudix, Edga Vivar, Oscar Casas

PRODUCER: Guillermo del Toro, Mar Targarona, Joaquin Padro, Alvaro Augustin

DIRECTOR: Juan Antonio Bayona

SCRIPT: Sergio G. Sanchez

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oscar Faura

EDITOR: Elena Ruiz

MUSIC: Fernando Velazquez

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Josep Rosell

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 29, 2008

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurettes, alternate ending and opening, extended scenes and storyboards.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 4, 2008







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