starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and Isabelle Fuhrman
directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
screenplay by David Leslie Johnson
Warner Bros. (2009)
I had heard different people talk about this movie when it came out, saying it was a lot better than they were expecting, especially the ending. But, my god, no one said anything about the gut punch that kicks off the movie. I'm not a fan of blood, probably less a fan of hospitals, so when the movies starts with both in the first couple of minutes, I thought I was watching a Saw movie for a second.
Anyway, Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard play an affluent married couple with two children, but struggling in their marriage following the miscarriage of what would have been their third child. Since they can't have children anymore, they choose to adopt. They visit the local orphanage and are instantly charmed by a nine-year-old Russian girl named Esther, played by Isabelle Fuhrman. It's at this point I remember the kerfuffle from adaption agencies and special interest groups about how this movie perpetuated some kind of paranoia about adopting foreign kids. Frankly, I don't think anyone was hinging their decision to adopt on the subject matter of a Hollywood horror film. Then again, people base life-altering decisions on some pretty stupid stuff.
So, Esther gets acquainted with her new home and family. The younger, deaf sister Max loves her. The older, douche-bag brother Daniel hates her. And I suppose I should tip my hat to the kid who played Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), because I absolutely hated Daniel and couldn't wait for Esther to murder his face. I can understand wanting to create tension in the new family dynamic, but that character scored a zero on the sympathy scale.
If you ever saw The Good Son, this movie is kind of like that, but it's a girl and she is vicious.
The manipulation and intimidation Esther uses to worm her way deeper into the family for her own gains is just insidious. Some of the stunts felt preposterous since Esther gets away quite literally with murder for the longest time, but the performances are solid enough that you can roll with it.
As for the ending, yeah, it's a kicker. I didn't see it coming, and I'm really glad it didn't get spoiled for me before I saw the movie, because if I knew what was coming down the road for this family I would have probably tuned out.