I’m the one dragging my poor teenagers to see some foreign language
film, but this time it was the other way around, and I’m glad they did.
This movie breaks all language barriers and is, to me, a perfect
example of fantasy done completely right.
is set in chaotic, war torn 1944 Spain. It’s an unlikely, and
ultimately perfect, blend of fantasy and reality. Centering on the
plight of Ofelia, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, this tale
weaves a dual reality with adventure and magic on both sides of the
coin. In this world, she’s the daughter of a tailor killed in the war,
and her mother has wed a cruel military Captain out of desperation and
misguided hope. Brought by this step-father to a new home in the country, they await the birth of his son, Ofelia’s half-brother. It’s here that
Ofelia finds the portal to another reality, one in which she is the
soul of the lost princess of the underworld, a place of magic and
legend which awaits her return.
Despite how it sounds, this is not a children’s movie, nor is it a
happy one. It depicts very realistic war violence and torture, none of
which is gratuitous — to this story it is unfortunately necessary. It’s
rated R and deserves it. I would strongly discourage anyone taking kids
under 14 to see it.
I would discourage squeamish adults from seeing it, as well.
The most amazing thing to me about this movie is that it actually
works. Guillermo del Toro, the film’s director, deserves every accolade
he receives for this film, because he did an amazing job. Flipping
between guerilla warfare and meetings with fantastic creatures, between
scenes of military torture and confrontations with horrid monsters, it
all makes sense. There’s not a stumble in the entire movie.
The complaint I’ve had about contemporary fantasy is that it is
stagnating in its own conventions. Here is an example of how it can run
fresh and wild, like something entirely new.
Bravo to the director and the screen writer. Bravo to the cast and crew. You did it right.