Pan's Labyrinth

Must-See Cinema! More of del Toro’s beautiful monsters!

Poster art for Guillermo del Toro's fantasy drama Pan's LabyrinthA fantasy about spooky fauns and scary fascists, Guillermo del Toro’s gothic allegory treats Spain’s darkest political hour as a nightmarishBrothers Grimm fairy tale. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) could be a typical heroine sprung from the kids’ books she reads: Her father has died, and her sick mother’s remarriage has relocated them to a rural hideaway in a  forest. There’s even a big, bad wolf in the form of her stepfather (Sergi López), an officer in Franco’s army, and a housekeeper (Maribel Verdú) who doubles as a fairy godmother. When bona fide supernatural creatures give Ofelia tasks to perform – stealing magic keys, outsmarting grotesque giant toads – she overcomes obstacles with pluck and bravery. Her true tests, however, won’t occur in any netherworld but in the real one, where there’s no guarantee of a happily-ever-after ending.

Del Toro specializes in taking horror and superhero films to bold, baroque places, yet Pan’s Labyrinth is a step above his usual forays into the fantastic. Make-believe monstrosities pale in comparison to genuine ogres like López’s suave, sadistic civil guard, something del Toro’s extraordinary feat of imagination hammers home. Stories about mystical journeys offer children a way of seeing the adult world. Fantasies, however, can’t save them from it.

– David Fear, Time Out

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