olivia’s review published on Letterboxd:
an often compelling and uniquely woven fable bordering on fairytale, pan's labyrinth doles out a healthy dose of the unusual, -- as can be expected from a del toro work; probably the most captivating project i've seen of his so far -- paired with a beautiful soundtrack, a gorgeous script and thrills of the forbidden lurking in the carefully constructed shadows. sinister, eerie and sometimes bone-chilling, guillermo stamps his signature blend of fantasy and reality onto an already molded tale of light meeting darkness, and the fight that ensues to extinguish one another. while this is a kind of already done before message thematically, there is an attempt to rework, reshape and revamp the occasionally worn out idea of good versus evil. characters morph themselves into vessels for the story at hand (am i the only one that finds his actors/characters to always be partially unreachable?), all told in del toro's elegantly profound native tongue. quirky, meticulous (perhaps too much so) and precocious, there is a sense of astute wonderment here that is somewhat broken down by a very to-a-fault gruesomely wrapped package that is too violent (and dirty, i've never seen so much mud!) for its own good, and layered with cruel deformities. these aspects were just unnecessary, and i found that they took away from the story. i found myself conflicted about this one, as i don't think the film has enough of a solidified grip on what it wants to be, and that's what's preventing me from jumping on the "it's a masterpiece" bandwagon. you can't split a narrative down the middle so drastically between bygone and present tense and expect the two halves to be made whole again, no matter how gracefully del toro tries to fit the pieces back together into the original shape. is it a war movie or a fantasy movie? and isn't that EXACTLY what the main problem was with shape of water? mostly intriguing, but intermittently speckled with blandness and odd sensibilities, pan's labyrinth is a moving (if not overly-quiet) portrayal of something we've ultimately seen before, that struggles to commit to one train of thought. perhaps it could be considered a modern (with stabs at the crafting of something ancient and foreboding) retelling of persephone, perhaps it's describable as an offbeat, off-kilter alice in wonderland with an even darker forbidden premonition than its predecessor. either way, i'm not entirely sure this does enough to set itself apart, and i'm not entirely sold on the execution, and truthfully i was bored at some points of the seemingly long and dragging runtime. and i feel that the villian of the movie is so hyperbolic to the point of unbelievability. so, in summary, even though this is a very beautiful ode to the crumbling ruins of decaying magical penitentiaries, bathed in warmed sepias and darker shades of blue, it's a mixed bag for me in the end, and i found a lot left to be desired, or a lot that could've been improved upon. carved into stone doesn't always scream with the etchings of a classic. however, i could see myself rewatching this, as it does have a mystical, alluring pull that nothing i say can discount or take away from.
(part of my priority watchlist of 2019)