Dan Holford’s review published on Letterboxd:
Scsvenger Hunt 73 - movie 2 | task 6 - watch a film that ‘Your Movie Sucks’ gave 10/10 |
"The World Is A Cruel Place. And You'll Learn That, Even If It Hurts."
A really enjoyable dark fairy tale, mixing plenty lot of dark fantasy together with the darkness of humanity and war. Guillermo Del Toro manages to craft a sincere and thoughtful storyline that just about manages to strike the right balance between the fantastical elements and the more human story at its heart.
First and foremost, the visuals are fantastically impressive. There’s a good use of CGI, puppetry, actors and other practical effects to create this bizarre world that we see. Every set and colour choice is really rather perfect, with each design feeling fresh and exciting as we glimpse more and more into the fantasy. Del Toro manages to craft plenty of memorable creatures, their designs feeling totally unique and even the way their characters play out on screen feeling different each time. These aren’t just ‘monsters’ they always feel like something much more important. The Faun especially is such an interesting design, the way he moves and speaks just adding to the bizarre nature of the creature on screen. It helps that his dialogue, both how it is written and performed help him seem like a helpful, guardian angel tyoe figure, despite the outer appearance.
It also plays up to the horror element more than I expected, while not terrifying, per se, there’s still a fair amount of great ensign building. The pale man scene especially does a wonderful job of crafting slow tension that rises steadily throughout the scene. There’s the great creature design, and wonderfully designed set, there’s also a ticking clock element that adds to the lingering tension of the scene. The whole time Ofelia feels out of her depth, in a world that isn’t her own, and the danger of the creature ever present around her. I would have loved this scene to have gone on a little longer, and played up even more with the horror elements.
Del Toro does a great job at creating humane and likeable characters. Here we have Ofelia, the child protagonist of the piece, likeable and understandable from the outset. It’s through her eyes we see the fantasy world, and really get the sense of wonder, and escapism she needs from the reality of her world. The narrative does place a lot of focus on Ofelia in the real world, which helps cement the emotional connection to her character. There’s her pregnant but ill mother, a strong bond between her and her daughter that really helps with the emotions that come later on. While I liked Mercedes and her performance, I did think at times the film focussed a little too much on her story. I understand the reason it was there, to focus the horror of humanity and war alongside the fantasy, just at times it felt it took a little too much away from the main plot.
While all the performances are great, there is one stand out. The film also does a great job of creating a human villain with, Vidal. Almost like a Disney villain come to life, he’s excellently performed by Sergi Lopez, everything about his character is unlikeable and just damn right evil. There’s enough to his character that he’s always interesting to watch, and he’s someone you can’t quite predict. It’s crazy to think that a film that features a horrifying design like the ‘pale man’ who actually eats children, is outdone in villainy in a human character.
Ultimately it’s a really enjoyable film, with a great plot and gorgeous visuals. Ofelia’s journey, not only into this fantasy world, but also taking control of her own life and destiny is certainly one I’ll be eager to revisit in the future.