Released 2006 (France)
Spanish, Mexican, and American, in Spanish (English subtitles available)
Director - Guillermo del Toro
Stars - Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, and Doug Jones
Set in Spain during 1944, when young Ofelia (Baquero), along with her pregnant mother, goes to live with her stepfather Vidal (Lopez), a brutal Spanish army captain, she escapes into a mysterious and creepy world of fantasy. Verdu co-stars as Mercedes, the family housekeeper, and Jones as the titular faun (in Spanish the title reads “The Faun’s Labyrinth”).
Very graphic violence, including against children; minor blue language.
My only major nitpick is that I felt that Vidal jumped to the correct conclusion far too quickly based on little evidence most of the time. Perhaps I’m just too used to movie characters being really stupid because the plot calls for it, but in this case it sort of felt like he was too smart because the plot called for it. He also borders on mustache-twirling levels of evil, almost-but-not-quite a caricature.
Almost too many to list. The acting is consistently great from everyone. Loved the strong female characters, especially Mercedes. I adored sweet, innocent, creative little Ofelia. Eight years on, the special effects still look pretty great. It’s creepy in all the right ways. Visually, it’s stunning. The story is engrossing, both the fantasy piece and the real-world piece. Each scene, the tone was exactly right; I felt grossed out when I was supposed to, scared when it was appropriate, creeped out and tense most of the film. Can I also say how much I loved that Ofelia’s fantasy world, while it promised rich rewards, was tinged with a certain level of the grotesque, scary, and bizarre, because that’s what her real life was like? It was magnificently well done.
I loved this movie. It’s beautiful and touching and inventive. It’s also gut-wrenching and kicks you in the teeth at the end. Consider yourself forewarned, but watch it anyway (perhaps with a hankie on-hand if you’re a big sap like me). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
I give the movie 4.75 stars.