Check out some clips and our review of the much-hyped foreign language film that opens today in theaters everywhere

Por Ernesto Sánchez / People En Español
Updated Enero 10, 2008

Cast: Belén Rueda, Édgar Vivar y Geraldine Chaplin

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Script: Sergio G. Sánchez

Movie genre: Thriller, drama, terror, fantasy

Rated: R, for disturbing images

Grade: A-

With its Baroque style, characteristics the likes of The Others and a pomp-and-circumstance type announcement, the most anticipated foreign film of the year hits theaters in the United States today: El orfanato.

The Spanish film starring Belén Rueda, who plays the mother of a child with HIV, tells the story of a small family that lives in an old house in the middle of nowhere, a house that used to be an orphanage.

The adopted Simón (played superbly by Roger Príncep), spends the days playing with imaginary friends, until one day he suddenly disappears from the house, nowhere to be found.

Simón's disappearance sets into motion a series of frightening events, and Rueda (whose performance, without a doubt, elicits comparisons to Nicole Kidman when she was locked in a house, trying to make sense of her surroundings) begins to experiences visions from the world beyond.

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Why do her son's imaginary friends have the same names as the people who lived in the orphanage years ago?

This is the basic premise of the Guillermo del Toro-produced film, and without revealing too much, the movie does a 180 when Édgar Vivar (Señor Barriga himself) and Geraldine Chaplin storm the scene in Poltergeist (1982) style, ready to contact the house's spirits (if there are any).

It's true that El Orfanato is shamelessly inspired by a variety of movies – more than just the ones mentioned in this review – but its movie magic stems from Rueda's stellar performance, whose character does the impossible to find her son in a moving and touching way that reminds viewers of the importance of infancy.

Why are children so lonely? Why, as aduts, do we treat them as if they didn't exist, think, feel? Why don't we believe what they say and ignore them until they reach a certain age? In reality, children, whether they have parents or not, often live in a metaphorical orphanage.