I FINALLY saw The Orphanage (hold your applause until the end, please.)
Wow, what a haunting film. I can't think of a movie I've seen recently that touched so many emotions in me. Maybe PAN'S LABYRINTH was the last. This film held true to my expectations of a creepy ghost story - but it delivered so much more. In the last twenty minutes, the film elevates itself above the typical haunted ghost story into a work of art depicting insanity, fear, grief, and hope. This is a very powerful film.
****** SPOILERS *********
A couple of notes:
I've noticed that ever since I've become a father, it is much more difficult for me to watch a young child die on screen. It is especially difficult for me when the child dies alone - as was the case with Simon. The vision of Simon - dead on the cold floor of that basement - haunts me still this morning.
Also, it bothered me that Laura committed suicide. I just felt it cheapened her story - a convenient plot device, but not something that I held entirely true to her character. After all, Simon was going to die anyway at some point - that was clear from his illness. And it bothers me when seemlingly noble characters take this "selfish" route (it rarely seems like a tragic act to me anymore). Laura gets rewarded for killing herself by reuniting with her son and finding happiness. I would have preferred an ending where Laura simply died from grief. That is a more tragic ending to me, and a much more noble death.