Orphan (film)

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For the abandoned or neglected motion picture work, see Orphan film.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Produced by Joel Silver
Susan Downey
Leonardo DiCaprio
Jennifer Davisson Killoran
Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson
Story by Alex Mace
Starring Vera Farmiga
Peter Sarsgaard
Isabelle Fuhrman
CCH Pounder
Jimmy Bennett
Music by John Ottman
Cinematography Jeff Cutter
Edited by Timothy Alverson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $78.3 million[1]

Orphan is a 2009 American psychological thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious 9-year-old girl. Orphan was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions.[2] The film was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009.[3] The film received mixed critical reviews, although Fuhrman's performance as Esther was acclaimed.


Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) are experiencing strains in their marriage after their third child was stillborn. The loss is particularly hard on Kate, who is also recovering from alcoholism. The couple decides to adopt a 9-year-old Russian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) from a local orphanage. While Kate's and John's deaf daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) embraces Esther almost immediately, their son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is less welcoming.

Kate suspects that there might be problems in Esther's background when Esther's knowledge of sex extends beyond her age. Her suspicions deepen when Esther seriously injures another girl who had bullied her. Kate initially believes Esther's claim that it was an accident, but is further alarmed when Sister Abigail (C. C. H. Pounder), the head of the orphanage, warns that bad things happen when Esther is around. Esther overhears this and pushes Max into the path of Sister Abigail's departing car, forcing her to swerve off the road. Sister Abigail rushes to see if Max is hurt, but Esther kills her with a hammer, then convinces Max to help her hide the weapon in their treehouse. Kate is convinced that something is very wrong with Esther, but John does not listen to her. Attempting to find out more about Esther, Kate finds the girl's hidden Bible and discovers that it came from the Saarne Institute in Estonia, which she eventually learns is a mental hospital. She e-mails a picture of Esther to them and asks for more information.

When Daniel learns about Sister Abigail's death from Max, he tells her of his plan to retrieve the hammer to prove Esther's guilt. Esther overhears their conversation and confronts Daniel as he searches the treehouse, setting it ablaze in an attempt to kill Daniel and destroy the evidence. Daniel falls to the ground trying to escape, and is knocked unconscious. Esther attempts to finish him off with a rock, but Max stops her. While Daniel is hospitalized from his fall, Esther slips into his room and smothers him with a pillow, stopping his heart, but doctors quickly revive him. Kate, realizing what happened, attacks Esther, but orderlies help John restrain her. As John takes Esther and Max home, doctors sedate Kate.

That night, a provocatively-dressed Esther tries to seduce a drunken John, who finally realizes Kate was right that Esther has done nothing but caused problems, John tells Esther that he will call sister Judith the next day to talk about sending Esther back to the orphanage, upsetting Esther. Meanwhile, as Kate is coming out of sedation, she receives a call from a doctor at the Saarne Institute, who reveals that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. She has hypopituitarism, a hormone disorder that stunted her physical growth, and has spent most of her life posing as a little girl and had people adopt her, with her goal of seducing the father and having a relationship with him. The doctor reports that Leena is extremely violent and has murdered at least seven people that the institute knows of. The last family she was adopted by in Estonia was killed by her because the father rejected her sexual advances, enraging her and after she killed him and his family she burnt their house down. Kate rushes out of the hospital in terror as she tries to get back home to stop Esther and prevent her family from suffering the same fate as the family Esther murdered.

Leena flies into a rage after being spurned by John and ransacks her room. Then, after removing the disguise that enhanced her illusion as the youthful "Esther", Leena kills him with a knife. Max witnesses this and hides. Kate, unable to get John on the phone, rushes home and finds him dead. Leena gets a gun from John's safe and shoots Kate in the arm, then tracks Max down in the greenhouse. While Leena shoots at Max, Kate crawls onto the greenhouse roof, breaks through the glass above Leena, and lands on her, knocking her out. Kate takes the gun and leaves the greenhouse with Max.

Leena regains consciousness and finds Kate and Max outside near a frozen pond. Leena lunges at Kate, knocking the gun out of her hand and hurling them both onto the ice. As Max watches from a hill above, she picks up the gun and tries to shoot Leena, but hits and shatters the ice instead, causing Kate and Leena to drop into the water. After a brief struggle, Kate climbs partially out of the pond with Leena clinging to her legs. Leena, reverting to her little-girl persona, begs Kate not to let her die while hiding a knife behind her back. Kate angrily responds that she is not her mother, and kicks Leena in the face, breaking her neck and sending her sinking back into the pond. Max and Kate are met by the police moments after.



The film was shot in Canada, in the cities of Burlington, Toronto, Port Hope and Montreal.[2]


Box office[edit]

The film opened at #4 film in the box office for its opening weekend, making $12,770,000 total, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Ugly Truth. The film has grossed a total of $78,337,373.[1]

Home media[edit]

Orphan was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 27, 2009 in the US by Warner Home Video. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on November 27, 2009 by Optimum Releasing. The home media include alternate scenes and footage, and one alternate ending marketed on the DVD cover. The opening previews also contain a PSA describing the plight of unadopted children in the USA and encouraging domestic adoption. A DVD of the film is seen in a scene from This Means War.

Alternate ending[edit]

In an alternate ending, after Kate saves Max from Esther and they escape, Esther is seen hurrying into her room. There, she is shown with a face covered in bloody cuts while she re-applies her makeup which makes her look like innocent Esther again. She then puts on the dress she wore for her first day of school and greets the police, who arrived after receiving Kate's frantic call before she reached the house, at the top of the stairs by curtseying and introducing herself, and then she is seen descending the stairs into the crowd of police.


Critical response[edit]

Critical reaction to Orphan has been mixed to positive, with the film earning a rating of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, where the consensus states: "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."[4] It also earned a 42 out of 100 rating on Metacritic.[5] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3.5 stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[6] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, commenting: "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."[7]

Todd McCarthy of Variety was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half."[8] 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."[9] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, noting: "Orphan isn't scary – it's garish and plodding."[10]

Overtly negative reviews ranged from "galling, distasteful trash" (Eric D. Snider)[11] to "old-fashioned and trashy horror flick" (Emanuel Levy)[12] and "relentlessly bad", albeit "entertaining" (Rob Vaux).[13] Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews wrote: "The problem with Orphan isn't merely that the film is idiotic – it's that it's also sleazy, formulaic and repellant."[14] 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."[15]

Although the film received mixed reviews, Fuhrman's performance was acclaimed and positively received; Emanuel Levy wrote that Fuhrman "acquits herself with a strong performance, affecting a rather convincing Russian accent and executing sheer evil with an admirable degree of calm and earnestness."[12] Todd McCarthy proclaims that Fuhrman (as well as fellow juvenile cast members Aryana Engineer and Jimmy Bennett) are terrific, and that Fuhrman "makes Esther calmly beyond reproach even when faced with monumental evidence against her, and has the requisite great evil eye."[8] Mick LaSalle continued that Fuhrman "steals the show" and that she "injects nuance into this portrayal, as well as an arch spirit."[7] Roger Ebert determined she "is not going to be convincing as a nice child for a long, long time."[6]


The film's content, depicting a murderous adoptee, was not well received by the adoption community.[16] The controversy 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."[17] 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."[18]

There is a pro-adoption service message on the DVD, advising viewers to consider adoption.


Year Award Category Result
2009 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie: Drama Nominated
2010 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film International Feature Length Competition Golden Raven Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Movie Orphan - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information". The Numbers. 
  2. ^ a b Diane Garrett, Tatiana Siegel (November 29, 2007). "Sarsgaard, Farmiga join 'Orphan'". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Orphan (2009) - Release Dates". IMDb. 
  4. ^ "Orphan". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  5. ^ "Orphan Reviews". Metacritic. 
  6. ^ a b "Orphan". Roger Ebert. 
  7. ^ a b "Review: Orphan". San Francisco Chronicle. July 23, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b McCarthy, Todd. "Orphan Review". Variety. 
  9. ^ "Movie Review - Orphan - New Kid in the House, Clearly Up to Something". The New York Times. July 24, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Orphan Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly. 
  11. ^ Eric Snider's review
  12. ^ a b Emanuel Levy's review
  13. ^ Rob Vaux's review
  14. ^ "Review by Dennis Schwarz". One Guy's Opinion. 
  15. ^ Phipps, Keith. "Orphan Review". The AV Club. 
  16. ^ "Adoption groups angry with 'Orphan' stereotypes". The San Francisco Chronicle. July 17, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Uproar over Orphan movie". Business Mirror. 
  18. ^ Greene, Melissa Fay (July 15, 2009). "The New Movie Parents Hate". The Daily Beast. 

External links[edit]