4.5 stars. One of the only "fairytale films" I've ever found totally convincing. Partly this may be because Del Toro designs monsters like how a child designs monsters; because the lullaby melody is perfectly haunting; because the colour saturation and shift in visual tones between overground and underground is just right for somnambulist revelry; because Ivana Baquero seems so utterly sincere...) Del Toro's peak.
A stronger riff of The Spirit of the Beehive, but similarly edging near melodrama with its black-and-white characterizations and its supernatural world rarely coalescing in narrative/symbols/themes with its earthbound one. Yet, the grounded drama still hits hard, even if del Toro doesn't quite earn the fantastical relevance. This is a case when a film is perfect in the human emotion it has, even if it's not complete.
What if the colorful fantasies and bouts of magical thinking experienced by many children were actually real for one little girl? That's the question powering this story, I think. The escapism of playing pretend is not enough sometimes, not by half, making this movie a much-needed world of wish fulfillment.
My step da' tells me this is film that confirmed to him that I would be a weirdo film fanatic for life. I watched it for the first time with him when I was about 14 years old and made two statements during, the first was 'Vidal is one of the most evil people to ever exist, ever.' and the second was 'Pan's so cute.'...little did I know. As a 23 year old, I stick by the first statement. Vidal, you're an arsehole mate.
It sweeps me off my feet every time I see it. This is Del Toro's question to the world: why does life have to be so violent, cruel and inhumane? I hope Del Toro returns to this type of film in his career, otherwise I fear I have to say the best is behind him.