I should mention a couple of things.
First, I hate the fantasy film genre. Hate it with an effin' passion. I can't suspend logic and embrace disbelief long enough to enjoy most fantasy films, for some reason. (Unless the star of the flick wears a cape or spins webs on which he can swing, that is...) Secondly, I hate movies with subtitles. To really enjoy a movie, I need to invest in the characters, to form what amounts to a relationship with them.
I dunno why, it's just my way. But subtitles make investing in the characters hard for me.
But people kept emailing me with the "Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth yet?" And, "I so excited for you to see Pan's Labyrinth! It rocks." And one person went so far as to email: "You know, you're one sexy bastard!"
(OK, that last one wasn't really true. See, I can fantasize, even if I don't like the fantasy flicks.)
So, on the recommendation of several people who accidentally found The Film Geek, I settled into my faux Lazy-Boy and clicked "play".
I loved Pan's Labyrinth! In fact, I can't say it loudly or boldly enough in type, so I have to add emphasis: I effin' loved this movie! The characters, the plot, the pacing, the dialogue all were simply brilliant, and put together made this flick one of the best I've seen in a long, long time.
Set in 1940's pre-Civil War Spain, a young girl named Ofelia struggles to make sense of her oppression and her lifestyle. She escapes from and deals with the challenges of her day-to-day life (political and familial changes, and a constant sense of danger) through a fantasy, in which she is a mythical princess on an important mission. For me, the fantasy itself--with the strange creatures of mythology and it's metaphorical parallels to the peripheral plot--are less important than the reason the fantasy existed, and how it affected Ofelia's life.
Through the fantasy Ofelia found strength and an identity; she gained control of an existence that was otherwise out of her control, and became the architect of her own life.
I made such a mistake avoiding this movie. First, the fantasy aspect was integral to the central plot, and an excellent vehicle in which to explore overcoming powerlessness. Secondly, the subtitles were done in a manner that seemed more narrative than true representations of what was being spoken. I realized half-way through that I was watching the movie mostly without even reading the subtitles, even though I don't hablo espanol.
So, those of you who mentioned Pan's to me: you were right: In addition to me being one sexy bastard, Pan's Labyrinth was incredible. Thanks for the recommendations.