Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Jimmy Bennett and Aryanna Engineer
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 123 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Rating notes: Strong violence
If you like an intelligent and well-made thriller with some touches to terror, then this one is well worth a try. One of the problems of reviewing the film is that the marketers have asked writers not to reveal a final twist. So, some comments about the atmosphere of Orphan.
The setting is a snowy Connecticut winter (filmed in Canada). It opens with a rather gruesome birth sequence which is, we find, literally nightmarish. This leads us with some apprehension to a portrait of a family: the mother, Kate (Vera Farmiga giving a fine performance as a tormented and devoted mother), father, John (Peter Sarsgaard offering a complex character who is both sympathetic and irritating), their son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and a five year old hearing-impaired Maxine (Aryanna Engineer who acts convincingly, and is hearing-impaired in real life). But, Kate has a desire to offer the love she has lost with her still-born daughter, so she wants to adopt.
This, of course, is where the orphan comes in, nine year old Russian Esther, a polite, articulate, artistic and ingratiating girl whom Kate and John cannot resist. Well, not at first, at least. This is a variation on the old ‘bad seed’ story, very well performed by Isabelle Furthman (aged eleven at the time). The film runs for over two hours, rather long for this kind of film, but it is always interesting, building up atmosphere, indicating aspects for tension, gradually changing the thrust of the film – and that is where the reviewer had better stop and leave the audience to experience the twist (which I wasn’t expecting in the way it is revealed!).
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