Sunday, May 19, 2013

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

**Plot spoiler warning**

I gave this one a day to sink in.  My husband loves movies directed by Guillermo del Toro, especially the Hellboy films, so he was curious about this one. I recalled liking both Hellboy films, and after watching the trailer (which, itself, looked pretty interesting and had some reviews by credible movie reviewers), we decided to rent it.

Pan's Labyrinth is in Spanish, with English subtitles, but don't let that put you off.  Del Toro, as usual, has created a visually striking, otherworldly, and vaguely haunting piece, and the subtitles don't detract from it.  The soundtrack is pretty terrific, too, by the way.  I enjoyed the representation of Pan - a bit creepier than the usual conception of him, but certainly fitting for the tone and style of the film.  I would call it a "dark fairytale."

My major knock against this film has to be in its lack of cohesion.  I get the sense that all the "connecting" themes were left on the cutting room floor, perhaps due to a time or budget constraint.  (Insert reiterated plot spoiler warning.)  One half of the film deals with Spain, circa 1944, and the relationships between the main character, a girl named Ofelia, her pregnant mother, and the mother's new husband, a powerful but increasingly brutal military leader.  The other half of the film deals with a completely disconnected fairytale-slash-legend that would have it that Ofelia is a princess from another realm, reborn into a human body, and that she must return to her rightful home.

These two disparate storylines never actually connected for me in any meaningful way.  I had been expecting the typical hero's journey, whereby the girl would extract some wisdom from this other realm, and bring it back to her life in Spain in some way, or perhaps vice versa.  At least, I thought somehow the storylines would converge ... but they never did, and the ending therefore left me a bit dissatisfied.  I felt as though del Toro was telling two wholly separate stories, with plenty of their own conflicts and characters to drive them, but that both had been mashed together in the same film.  I was sorry to see it had ended up that way, because if that cohesion had been present, it would have enriched both storylines and earned a much higher rating from me.

SCORE: Three of five stars

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