CGB Review of Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto del Fauno (1,000 likes special!)

So when the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ Facebook page hit 1,000 likes, I knew I had to do something special to celebrate.  I decided to do a review of my favorite movie of all time.

This is my review of Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto del Fauno!


Pan’s Labyrinth opens with a fairy tale about Princess Moanna, the daughter of the king of the underworld.  One day she escapes from the underworld and enters the human world.  The minute the sunlight touches her eyes, she is blinded and all memory of her time as royalty is forgotten.  She lives among the mortals until sickness claims her life.  Her father believes that her spirit will one day find its way home.
Fast-forward to post-Civil War Spain in 1944; a young girl named Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen have moved to the countryside to live with Ofelia’s new stepfather Captain Vidal.  Lonely and isolated, Ofelia seeks refuge in the mill’s abandoned labyrinth, where she comes across a Faun who tells her that she is Princess Moanna and that in order to return to the underworld, she must complete three tasks before the full moon rises.

Guys and gals, I’ve been wanting to review this movie for a very long time.  I love this movie to pieces.  I discovered it six years ago and I’ve watched it 20 times ever since.  This movie was a turning point in my life and really changed my outlook on storytelling, so I have a lot to say about this gem.

The Hits
If you want to see some quality acting, look no further.  Every actor in this movie is exceptional; even the supporting characters give great performances!
Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia/Princess Moanna and she is wonderful.  A lover of fairy tales who finds comfort in her books, Ofelia is a lonesome innocent trapped in the brutal world of her stepfather’s mill.   Ofelia was originally written as an 8-year old, but 11-year old Baquero impressed Guillermo del Toro so much that he made revisions to the script so that he could cast Baquero, which was a wise decision in my opinion.  She looks young enough to still be reading fairy tale books, but is also old enough to be going on perilous quests.
Ariadna Gil plays her mother Carmen, who is sedated for a good chunk of the movie.  I like that the movie makes her a grounded, world-weary adult instead of villifying her for dismissing Ofelia’s obessesion with fairy tales.   Maribel Verdu is warm and empathetic as Mercedes, a housekeeper/revoluntionary who is conspiring with a group of rebels to take down Captain Vidal.
The most impressive performance comes from Sergei Lopez as Captain Vidal. What makes him stand out is that he is actually a comedic actor in his native Catalonia and producers had warned Del Toro that he might not fit the role of Vidal.  Lopez has said, “He [Vidal] is the most evil character I’ve ever played in my career.”  He’s right on the money because Captain Vidal is one sadistic son of a gun.  A cold and deranged fascist who is addicted to violence, Captain Vidal rules the mill with an iron fist that has been heated by the flames of Hell.
This movie came out in 2007, yet the special effects have aged gracefully.  The creatures are brilliantly designed and feel like unique monsters, especially the Pale Man (that guy with eyes on his hands).  I love that the fairies have earth-tone skin with leaf wings.  A lot of the scenes take place at night, so the use of midnight turquoise lighting instead of midnight blue makes it easy to see all that’s going on. Oh, and did I mention that the music is a hypnotic, melancholic lullaby that will haunt your ears long after the credits roll?

The Misses
No film is perfect.  As much as I praise this movie to high Heaven, there are some drawbacks.
I’ve always felt that Ofelia is not connected enough to the violence that surrounds her.  There’s never a scene where she witnesses her stepfather committing a violent act.  Yes, there’s a scene where Captain Vidal murders a man and his grown son, but Ofelia is absent from this scene.  I’m not saying that I would’ve preferred having her shoehorned into a scene where she’s not needed, but still, her disconnect has always been a problem for me.
There’s one major continuity error that if CinemaSins ever did an “Everything Wrong with Pan’s Labyrinth” video, they would pick up on it.
Also it’s sort of a SPOILER, so…SPOILER ALERT in 3…2…1…
After Ofelia completes the first task, she has to open the Book of Crossroads to find out what the second task is.  Shades of red explode across the pages and Ofelia hears her mother gasping.  She finds her very pregnant mother bleeding profusely.  Later that night, Ofelia, who is now sleeping in the attic, is visited by the Faun who says, “You did not complete the task,” to which Ofelia responds, “No, my mother–she was sick…”
This scene has always bothered me because after she defeated the Toad in the tree and got the golden key, the Faun told her to be patient and wait for her next assignment.  The next day, Ofelia opens the Book of Crossroads and then shiz goes down with her mother.  I don’t remember the Faun telling her there was something she needed to do before the second task; he just told her to be patient.
My guess is that this problem got overlooked in the screenwriting process. Director Guillermo del Toro did a lot of the work himself; directing, screenwriting, editing, giving up his salary to avoid budget constraints, even writing the subtitles! When a project as massive as this falls on the shoulders of one person, it’s easy for something to get overlooked.

Pan’s Labyrinth will always and forever be my #1 favorite film.  It’s a dark and poetic story with well-defined characters portrayed by great actors, a beautiful musical score and stunning visuals.  It doesn’t need a sequel, a prequel or a reboot. Just let it be the gothic fairy tale that it was always meant to be.

Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.

CGB Review of Amelie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001)

The irony of this review is that a movie about a young woman with short dark hair is being reviewed by a young woman with short dark hair.  (Plays Inception music in the background)
I’d be weirded out if Amelie was also a blogger.

This is my review of Amelie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain!


After having lived through a quirky childhood with her eccentric, neurotic parents, Amelie Poulain grows up to be a shy, self-isolating waitress whose life changes when she stumbles upon a memorabilia that belongs to a man who lived in her apartment in the 1950’s.  After she returns it to him, she makes it her mission to help others by finding their lost stuff and giving it back to them, all while coping with her own inability to form connections with others.

Guys and gals, this is going to be a tough review.  A lot of people really like this movie, or at the very least respect it.  I’m going to review this with as much charity to the fans of Amelie as possible, but at the end of the day, I have to be honest.  This film is definitely an acquired taste and I tried really hard to get sucked into the whacky and whimsical world of Amelie, but I had some issues with it.  As always, though, I’ll start with the positive.

What I Liked
As a character study, Amelie succeeds.  This movie is gung-ho about making sure that you know Amelie Poulain as intimately as the filmmakers do.  Thanks to competent writing, everything about her is well-established; I know her past, her likes and dislikes, her successes and failures, and most importantly, what motivates her.  I really appreciate learning the smaller details about her, like how she likes feeling the smooth texture of market lima beans underneath her fingertips or how because her father only interacted with her during her monthly checkups, his hand on her shoulder made her heart skip aflutter (this was when she was a child).  Little details like that can endear the character to the audience.
Audrey Tatou is enchanting as Amelie.  Innocent without being childish, aimless but still hardworking, Amelie’s desire to help others is the closest she can come to human connections without endangering her own inner walls.  Interestingly, the movie makes Amelie unaware of these inner walls until she begins her humanitarian quest.  Oblivious to just how lonely she is, she discovers herself with each new person she helps.  The movie presents the topic of loneliness in a light-hearted, yet respectful manner.

What I Didn’t Like
The narrator…ugh!  I get that he has to spoon-feed us exposition about Raphael and Amandine Poulain (Ma and Pa), but when the story stops so that Mr. Narrator can summarize the backstory of every single character, whether they’re major or minor, it gets a little annoying.  It’d be like going to check the mail and then the mailman stops you, a total stranger, so that he can spend an hour and a half telling you the story of how his great-grandfather owned a potato factory in Ireland which had to be closed down during the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852!
This movie is OBSESSED with having yellow be the main color palate!  It’s not so bad during the nighttime scenes, but when Amelie is walking around at work and the walls emanate an incessant yellow glow or when the yellow daylight casts down on Amelie as she heads for the market, it got pretty repetitive.
As original as the story was, it felt a little too episodic.  Amelie finds a box in a hole in her wall because–potatoes–then she returns it to Dominique Bretodeau.  End of 1st story arch.  Then Amelie comes across a blind guy because–banana–and escorts him to the Metro station while narrating the journey.  She leaves him at the station and takes off.  End of 2nd story arch.  The story structure of Amelie could’ve used a little more polishing so that it could feel less like a charming television show and more like a feature length with a three-act structure.

Overall, I think I would have liked this movie more if the narrator would’ve “zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket” and if the story wasn’t quite episodic.  However I definitely understand why a lot of people like this movie.  It has the charm and self-awareness that a modern-day fairy tale needs.  If this movie is to you what Pan’s Labyrinth is to me (and by that, I mean it’s a movie that changes your outlook on storytelling and greatly inspires you every time you watch it), then kudos to you!   If this is your cup of tea, then it’s fine by me.