The heroine, Laura (Belen Rueda) and her doctor-husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) hope to run a home for children with special needs in the abandoned orphanage where she grew up. But when they're about to open it up, their adopted son, Simon (Roger Princep), starts receiving visits from imaginary friends who resemble Laura's own orphanage-mates. She doesn't understand why they'd be threatening her and toying with her boy. Three ideas bring genuine terror to this film's bumps in the night: (a) childhood is a never-finished business; (b) even fleeting brutality to children will come back to haunt a parent or a guardian; (c) according to playground rules, you can't leave a game until it really ends. Geraldine Chaplin is equally spooky and inspiring as a medium who unravels half the movie's mysteries. She brings weight to her advice that to contact the dead, you must reverse the aphorism, "Seeing is believing." And as Laura, Rueda hits sublime notes of confusion, grief and wrath. She's sympathetic enough to make you root for her and complex enough to get you arguing afterward about whether Laura did anything to deserve all this. We all know there's little justice in this life. The most daring part of "The Orphanage" is that it provokes debates about the justice of the after-life.
Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times