The film relies heavily on the acting of Belen Rueda, who is known as a Spanish television icon. She has hosted Spain’s version of Wheel of Fortune, as well as a Good Morning America-style magazine show. She made her first feature film debut in The Sea Inside (2004). In this film she gets her first international exposure and displays her dominance on screen in various scenes. Her ability to capture a variety of emotions such as skepticism, fear, and anxiety as the plot takes a journey into the supernatural was fantastic. Her psychological portrait in dealing with alarming facts of what happened to her childhood friends from her past was compelling. She was very convincing as a person who must give up everything to find her son.
My only problem with this film is the minor characters such as Geraldine Chaplin (The Sea Inside), who has a small role as a Spanish medium named Aurora and goes on a scientific witch-hunt in the haunted house; and the police officer named Pilar (Mabel Ribera), who was unable to physically find Simon. These two characters are supposed to be on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to believing in the possibility of supernatural forces, but their performances are not as forceful as they should be and not very believable.
This sophisticated ghost story explored the fear of separation, and all the characters either past or future lived with that trauma. The creepy corridor scenes and images of little ghosts appearing in the haunted house gave the necessary ingredients to make this a fright film. In order to enjoy this eerie movie you must allow the script to unwind and let all the secrets of the story's past reveal itself and bring closure to the many questions the plot opens. Otherwise, the film could seem a little tiresome. To say anymore would be spoiling. The finale is worth the wait.
This is a good film from the new director and screenplay writer, but not a great one.
Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona
Running time: 100 minutes
Release date: December 28, 2007 (limited) & January 11, 2008 (wide)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller, Mystery and Foreign (Spanish with English Subtitles)
MPAA Rating: R