Film Reviews


By • Jul 26th, 2009 •

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Scared me. The twist works.

Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) is tormented that her alcoholism cost her young daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) her hearing and, topping that off, the stillbirth of their third child. With a young son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), a fabulous snow-covered house that doesn’t need a housekeeper, and a devoted wealthy husband, John (Peter Sarsgaard), she decides she wants to adopt an older child to fill up her empty emotional life.

They quickly settle on a 9-year-old girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), from Russia. Her background is murky and she shows no interest in being adopted. Kate does buy her new daughter age-appropriate clothes, but Esther prefers wearing weird Russian folk dresses and neck and wrist bands. Esther doesn’t bond with Kate or
Daniel. She is not encouraged to become a big sister to Max though she immediately learns sign language.

Esther does like her new daddy.

Here are rules to live by: Never bring an au pair girl into your home from a Scandinavian country or adopt a pre-teen (without proper documentation).

Soon Kate realizes that Esther is strange, not just strange-looking. When Kate questions Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), who handled the adoption, during a house visit, Esther takes fast revenge. Once her evil side surfaces, Esther can’t stop. She’s smart, ruthless, and an efficient killer. But, regardless of Kate’s concerns, John is not paying attention. He’s busy paying off the mortgage on the fabulous estate by the water.

Thankfully, the script by David Johnson, does not enrage the audience. It doesn’t take us or Kate much time to realize that Esther has to go.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra brings out the best in Farmiga, giving her more to do emotionally than she has in her many past roles. Sarsgaard is always good but he’s sexier here than he has ever been. He’s good with Fuhrman. I liked the atmosphere and loved the house. 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman is sensational and Esther could be what the horror world, dominated by teen boys in masks, needs – another Bed Seed.

Apparently, it’s not that easy to return a child once the paperwork has gone through. But it is done, and I am sure, often.

According to Time magazine (online edition), in 2007, “a Dutch diplomat posted in Hong Kong was accused of returning his eight-year-old adopted daughter like an unwanted Christmas necktie.” The Dutch vice consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife, Meta, adopted then-four-months-old Jade in South Korea. In 2006 the Poeterays put Jade in the care of Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department, saying they could no longer care for her because of the girl’s emotional remoteness.

The article continued: “While uncommon, it is not unprecedented for an adoption to fail and a child to be returned to foster care. According to The Times of London, an estimated 10% of British adoptions of children under 10 ultimately fail.”

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One Response »

  1. I just worked on the documentary for this film without ever haiving seen it. This is a first for me doing dvd supplementals for a film that was just about to open nation wide…..

    I am pleased Orphan is not a dud at least from reading your review Victoria….

    The documentary which had an unfortunate title so lets hope it gets a new one is more or less about the history of demonic children in the cinema…..

    the dvd will most likely be out before the film is through playing the tri-plexs….

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