50/50 Review #34: The Devil's Backbone.

This is one I've been wanting to see for years, particularly after Pan's Labyrinth. But was it worth the wait? The film takes place during the Spanish Civil War, as an orphan named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is dropped off at a poor orphanage run by Carmen (Marisa Paredes) and Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi). He immediately makes an enemy in another boy, Jaime (Inigo Garces), who bullies him. Oh, and there's a ghost boy named Santi (Junio Valverde) who walks the orphanage at night while a caretaker named Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) continually attempts to break into a safe and steal gold.

This is a film about characters. Of course I really liked the relationship between Dr. Casares and Carlos, and they share some really great scenes... including what I like to call the "baby rum" scene. I also had a similar reaction to this as I did with a completely unrelated film--Attack the Block. I was initially so put off by the character of Jaime and how terrible he is that I found it hard to get into the movie. But by the end, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had grown to really sympathize with him and feel bad for him. And I give a lot of respect to writers who can pull that kind of thing off. And he does have great taste in women, as Irene Visedo (who plays Jacinto's significant other), is quite the looker.

There is a lot going on in this movie, but with del Toro at the helm, it's all handled very well. If I had a complaint, it was that things did tend to get confusing to me at times, and I had to look up some plot points before going "ohh, so that's what's going on." Besides that, though, is the main reason I didn't really like this movie... let's see how well I can put this. Pan's Labyrinth, which I love, is a film that is basically a fantasy/fairy tale that just so happens to have the Spanish Civil War happening in the background. My least favorite part of that movie is all the war stuff, including the rebels subplot. This film is a Spanish Civil War movie that just so happens to have a ghost story involved. I loved the ghost story, but the war stuff just doesn't interest me. And unfortunately, that's what drives the bulk of this movie--not the ghost stuff.

But despite my disinterest in a chunk of the story, I absolutely do not deny the skill behind this film. The direction, the aesthetic, the atmosphere... everything about this film is done incredibly well. Even the CGI of the ghost and/or stuff accompanying the ghost looks damn good, especially for 2001. I also really liked the end with the kids banding together and how everything ended up going down. I just wish I could have loved more of the film as a whole. It's good. I liked it. But I think I might have wanted a little something different from it for me personally to really, really dig it.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Of course, as usual, the rating is based on my entertainment level, not the level of how good or bad the actual film is.)


  1. Give it six months and try it again. It would not surprise me if it moved up in your estimation with a little time and another view.

    I think you're somewhat hampered by having seen Pan's Labyrinth first, too.

    1. Yeah, having seen Pan's first was a big part of my reaction, I think. But I do think I might like it a little more on another viewing. It does have that "grow on you" feel to it.


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