TIFF 2016: Orphan Review

Special Presentations 

When I’m bored during a movie, I fidget. For this one, I was able to organize my backpack and accumulate a nice pile of garbage in my cup holder, so at least the arduous running time proved somewhat useful. Then again, I could have just sorted out my bag in two minutes and have been done with it.

Orphan, directed by “challenging” (read pretentious) director Arnaud des Pallières, is a biopic of a traumatized woman. So traumatized, in fact, that she’s played by four different actresses at different parts of her life. The TIFF program notes commend this film on being “a narrative puzzle,” but, as a former classmate told me, if the story isn’t interesting in a linear fashion, it’s no more interesting jumbled up. Essentially this woman suffers a series of traumas, and for each trauma, you can count on her switching actresses – and, on top of that, the story is told backwards. 

I was unable to identify with the fractured protagonist as she consistently acts unconscionably. Spanish actor Sergi Lòpez is as creepy as ever, but Pan’s Labryinth is still his calling card (as it should be). The most notable moments in this film’s nearly two hour run time consist of sounds – the sound of the door as her abusive father tries to get in her bedroom, and the sounds of her pain as she is giving birth.

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Yes, the deaf-blind critic just said the best part of the film were two types of sounds that probably lasted a minute combined. This story has been done better in other films – most notably, with a similar style to boot, in Nelly.

Screening: 

Sunday Sept. 18, 8:30pm @ Scotiabank 14

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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