Orphan Poster
Directed By
Produced By

Joel Silver Susan Downey Leonardo DiCaprio

Jennifer Davisson Killoran
Written By

Story: Alex Mace Screenplay:

David Leslie Johnson
Music By
John Ottman
Jeff Cutter
Editing By
Timothy Alverson

Distributed By

USA/International: Warner Bros. UK/Germany/France:

Release Date(s)
July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24)
123 min.

Warner Bros. UK/Germany/France: StudioCanal]]

Orphan is a 2009 horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a child. Orphan was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions.[1] The film was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009.[2]


Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) are experiencing strains in their marriage after Kate's third child was stillborn. The loss is particularly hard on Kate, who is still recovering from a drinking problem that cost her her job. While visiting the local orphanage, they decide to adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a nine-year-old Russian girl. While Kate and John's daughter Max (Aryana Engineer), who is a deaf mute and communicates with sign language, embraces Esther almost immediately, their son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is somewhat less welcoming.

Kate grows suspicious when Esther, who watched Kate and John have sex, expresses far more knowledge of sex and its slang than would be expected for a child her age. Not long after Esther arrives, she pushes a schoolmate who had picked on her off a playground slide, breaking her ankle. Max saw Esther shove the girl, but covers for Esther by saying that the girl slipped. At dinner, Daniel is mad and annoyed at Esther even saying,: "She's not my f*****g sister."

Kate is further alarmed when Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), the head of the orphanage, warns her and John about Esther's tendency to be around when things go wrong. Esther overhears this and later kills Sister Abigail by bludgeoning her with a hammer. She forces Max to help her hide the body and the hammer. Daniel sees Esther and Max descending from his treehouse from behind a rock, not knowing they hid the hammer there. Later that night, Esther threatens to kill Daniel if he tells anyone what he saw.

Kate is told that the Russian orphanage Esther came from has no record of her ever being there. However, John does not believe her, despite continued ominous behavior by Esther. At one point, Esther breaks her own arm in John's vise and convinces John that Kate broke it after Esther desecrated the garden grave site of her stillborn child's ashes. When John suggests that Kate spend the night downstairs while Esther stays in the master bedroom, Kate drives out and purchases two bottles of wine. After a struggle, she pours the opened bottle of wine down the drain. On Esther's first day back at school, she slips Kate's SUV into neutral, nearly killing Max. Afterward, John and Kate's psychiatrist confront her with the unopened bottle which Esther had found. They blame the accident on her carelessness because of her hangover.

Kate learns that Esther was housed at a mental institution in Estonia called the Saarne Institute, but when she expresses misgivings to John, he and her counselor thinks that Kate is relapsing into her drinking habit. After John produces the other bottle Kate bought the night before, he threatens to leave her and take the kids with him unless she gets help.

Daniel learns of the hammer from Max and decides to get it and go to the police. However, Esther sets the treehouse on fire, intending to get rid of the evidence and kill Daniel. Daniel escapes by falling out of the tree, severely injuring his neck and knocking him unconscious. Esther tries to finish him off by smashing a brick over his head, but Max shoves her out of the way just in time. Esther again tries to kill him at the hospital by unhooking his respirator and attempting to smother him with a pillow, placing him in a near-fatal coma. Doctors rush into the room and manage to save Daniel. Outside, Kate angrily slaps Esther across her face, knocking her to the floor and calling her a bitch, and is subdued and sedated by doctors.

That night, Esther tries to seduce a drunk and dazed John, who rank Kate's last bottle. John threatens to call the orphanage to talk about Esther's future in their house, but is stabbed to death by Esther after John discovered her disturbing artwork in her now-trashed bedroom.

As the now-widowed Kate is coming out of sedation, she gets a call from the Saarne Institute's director, Dr. Varava (Karel Roden), who reveals the horrifying truth about Esther. Her real name was Leena Klammer and she has hypopituitarism, a disorder that stunted her physical growth and caused dwarfism. She was born in 1976, and was a 33-year-old woman who was a serial killer posing as a little girl. During this time, Leena removes her false teeth, makeup, and the ribbons she wore around her neck and wrists to hide scars from being in a straitjacket. Dr. Varava warns Kate: "If it's really Leena, you don't have much time."

When Kate got home, she was finally pushed over the edge after discovering her husband. Kate takes Max and runs away from the house. When the police arrive, Leena disappears. Leena runs after Kate, trying to kill her and Max with a knife. Their chase takes them to a frozen pond, where Kate and Leena struggle. Max grabs Leena's snubnosed revolver trying to shoot her, but misses causing the ice to shatter. Leena and Kate fall into the freezing water. Kate crawls out of the hole, followed by Leena, who begs for her life, addressing Kate as "Mommy" while hiding a knife behind her back. Kate responds, "I'm not your f*****g Mommy!" and fiercely kicks Leena in the face, breaking her neck, sending her flying back into the pond.The film ends with Kate and Max leaving the pond.


  • Vera Farmiga as Katherine "Kate" Coleman
  • Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman
  • Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther Coleman/Leena Klammer
  • C. C. H. Pounder as Sister Abigail
  • Jimmy Bennett as Daniel Coleman
  • Aryana Engineer as Maxine "Max" Coleman
  • Margo Martindale as Dr. Browning
  • Karel Roden as Dr. Värava
  • Rosemary Dunsmore as Grandma Barbara
  • Genelle Williams as Sister Judith


The film was mostly shot in Canada, in the cities of Toronto, Port Hope and Montreal. Also, some portions of the film were shot in the American state of Connecticut. A hint of this is the vehicles license plate throughout the movie.[1]



The film's content, depicting a murderous adopted person, has not been well received by the adoption community.[3] The controversy has already caused filmmakers to change a line in one of their trailers from "It must be difficult to love an adopted child as much as your own," to "I don’t think Mommy likes me very much."[4] Melissa Fay Greene of The Daily Beast commented:

"The movie Orphan comes directly from this unexamined place in popular culture. Esther’s shadowy past includes Eastern Europe; she appears normal and sweet, but quickly turns violent and cruel, especially toward her mother. These are clichés. This is the baggage with which we saddle abandoned, orphaned, or disabled children given a fresh start at family life."[5]
― {{{2}}}


Critical reaction to Orphan has been mixed, with the film earning a rating of 56% (43% among the Top Critics) on Rotten Tomatoes,[6] where the consensus is: "While it has moments of dark humor and the requisite scares, Orphan fails to build on its interesting premise and degenerates into a formulaic, sleazy horror/thriller". It also earned a 42 out of 100 on Metacritic.[7] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3½ stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[8] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, saying: "Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise."[9]

Todd McCarthy, of Variety, was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half."[10] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "Actors have to eat like the rest of us, if evidently not as much, but you still have to wonder how the independent film mainstays Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard ended up wading through Orphan and, for the most part, not laughing."[11] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, saying, "Orphan isn't scary — it's garish and plodding."[12]

Openly (and at times vehemently) negative reviews are abundant: from "galling, distasteful trash" (Eric D. Snider)[13] to "old-fashioned and trashy horror flick" (Emanuel Levy)[14] and "relentlessly bad", albeit "entertaining" (Rob Vaux).[15] According to Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews, "The problem with Orphan isn't merely that the film is idiotic--it's that it's also sleazy, formulaic and repellant."[16] And according to Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club, "If director Jaume Collet-Serra set out to make a parody of horror-film clichés, he succeeded brilliantly."[17]

Although the film received mixed reviews, Isabelle Fuhrman's performance was acclaimed and positively received. Emanuel Levy said of Fuhrman "acquites herself with a strong performance, affecting a rather convincing Russian accent and executing sheer evil with an admirable degree of calm and earnestness."[18] Todd McCarthy proclaims that Fuhrman (as well as Bennett and Engineer) is terrific and that she "makes Esther calmly beyond reproach even when faced with monumental evidence against her, and has the requisite great evil eye."[19] Mick LaSalle continues in that Fuhrman "steals the show" and that she "injects nuance into this portrayal, as well as an arch spirit."[20] And as said by Roger Ebert, she "is not going to be convincing as a nice child for a long, long time."[21]

The film was the #4 film at the box office for its opening weekend, making $12.77 million total, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Ugly Truth respectively. As of September 9, 2009 the film has grossed a total of $47,886,036.[22]

Home media Edit

Orphan was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 27, 2009 in the US and will be released in the UK on November 30, 2009.


External linksEdit


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