Our Mission
Prize Trivia
The Golden Rules
Movie News
Movie Reviews
Submit a Review
Your Videos/Movies
Movies by Period/Category
Register & WIN!

Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peer Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale, Karel Roden, Aryana Engineer, Rosemary Dunsmore

Joanne Ross

July 31, 2009


It has often been said that mother knows best. In Orphan, mother Kate Coleman certainly does. Her maternal radar blips fairly early signaling that something is wrong about little Esther, the shining, too-good-to-be-true, orphaned girl that she and her husband John just adopted. As days pass, she realizes their decision has imperiled her family. Predictably, nobody believes her.

Orphan is the latest addition to the gallery of “creepy kid” horror films, such as the stellar The Omen. Only unlike Damien, there is nothing supernatural or mystical driving Esther’s machinations. And, unlike The Omen, Orphan doesn’t get the heart pumping or the adrenaline flowing, despite having all the expected cinematic elements of the genre, such as unnerving camera angles; high contrast, spooky lighting; a sinister atmosphere; and ominous music.

After the loss of their baby, Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, respectively), decide to adopt a child, and at the orphanage, they meet nine year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). A little on the prissy side, Esther has impeccable manners, a talent for painting, and an angelic face. Kate and John are instantly smitten. However, Esther is having some difficulties settling in at home and at school. The Coleman’s real children Daniel and Max are afraid of her and her classmates don’t like her. Several unexplained incidents and accidents occur which cause Kate to regard Esther with suspicion. Who is she? Where did she come from? What is behind those penetrating eyes and that knowing smile? Certainly much more than one would expect of a nine year-old child. To protect her family, Kate decides to investigate Esther’s past.

Despite my disappointment, I can’t write Orphan off as a complete dud because it isn’t. There are several bright spots that deserve mention, two of which are the compelling performances given by Fuhrman and Farmiga in what are essentially one-dimensional roles. I don’t know how the twelve year-old Fuhrman did it, but she summons the qualities of maturity, keen intelligence and malevolence then concentrates them into a fierce countenance and laser beam gaze. Her commitment and focus is impressive. And Farmiga creates layers in her characterization projecting subtlety and depth, giving us in Kate a desperate mother who is painfully believable. Director Jaume Collet-Serra also deserves a nod for setting the perfect pace for unfolding the story, and in the later scenes, increasing the tempo to up the tension.

Orphan reveals a nifty twist ending, one I didn’t see coming. It’s a little disturbing and pushes the bounds of credibility, but not so much that Fuhrman couldn’t sell it. At least the audience seemed to buy it, and I did too.*-JR


We would love to hear what you think! Agree? Disagree with this Moviebuff? Send your Review in TODAY!
Click here to send us your review
Or copy and paste into your email browser:  reviews@moviebuffs.com
include your review in your email!