First let me dispel some myths. This movie came out before Orphan (2009) and the two have different story lines. Although Hollywood is not so original lately, Orphan is not a remake of El Orfanato. Interesting to note is that New Line Cinema did buy the rights for an English remake of El Orfanato.
Laura, Carlos, and their young son Simón move into a large old house in Spain where Laura grew up as an orphan. Being fortunate to leave the orphanage at a young age she has had a great life and has a wonderful family. It has always been her dream to return to help others; she plans on fixing up the facilities to care for challenged children.
Like many young boys Simón has imaginary friends. He has always had two up until moving into the new place where he made friends with Tomás. They often play together and Simón even learned a new game from him that he shows his mother. The idea is to replace an item with another, you then need to figure out where that item came from, that leads you to another and another; once you make it to the end to find the treasure you get to make a wish.
One time he is playing the game with his mother that Tomás set up. She is perplexed by the items and placement and wonders how Simón knew about everything. The final item in this game is a folder that was given to Laura the night before by a strange woman claiming to be a social worker and that she found snooping around later that night. The folder was in a locked drawer that Simón could not have known about.
He starts yelling at his mom in a tirade about his past, she so startled and not sure what to do. He claims his friend (and now some other friends) told him he was adopted and very sick. Being entirely true Carlos and Laura must have a talk with him.
They have an open house to meet prospective children to care for and Simón becomes missing. His parent’s search the house, beach, and cave where he met his friend to no avail. The police are called in along with a psychiatrist. Six months later and there has been no progress so Laura calls in a medium to the dismay of her husband. Then...
The cast of amazing actors including first-timers and seasoned vets are Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Geraldine Chaplin, Mabel Rivera, and Montserrat Carulla. The crew played a vital role in the making of this film; most notably director J.A. Bayona with Sergio G. Sánchez writing the script and Óscar Faura heading up cinematography.
9 out of 10 - I can not praise this movie enough; if you watch it you will know why. The DVD with English subtitles and an amazing DTS audio track can be picked up on Amazon.