Pan's Labyrinth is set in Spain in 1944 and follows the story of a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Basquero). Her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) has married the captain of an army and so the two of them travel to go and live with him, wanting to deliver the baby in his presence. One night, Ofelia is met by a fairy, and it's this fairy who leads her to a faun (Doug Jones). The faun explains to Ofelia that she is a reincarnated princess, her father waiting for her in the underworld, and to be reunited with the king she must follow through with a series of tasks, proving herself to be the princess after all. It sounds like a children's tale, but Pan's Labyrinth is far from it.
From faun's to fairies to exploding toads, Pan's Labyrinth is full of weird and wonderful creatures, but their presence isn't overstayed, balancing out with the grimness of the war scenes. It's a film of many themes and multiple stories. On the one hand, we have the story of the war breaking out, and these sequences are full of despair, torture and disturbing imagery, showcasing the war as it really was. It's dark and it's bleak, and the hopefulness of the fairy tale doesn't take away from this at all. In fact, it improves it, providing us with some joy before bringing us back into the darkness. The two work hand in hand with each other and result in a wonderful movie.
Despite some clunky dialogue here and there, Pan's Labyrinth is a real treat. It's violent, it's magical and it made me feel all kinds of emotion. It goes down a path you will not predict, and the finale is certainly something. It had me hooked, and when we get to the eventual ending it took a turn I wasn't expecting. It's not necessarily a twist, but it doesn't end how you expect it to. In fact, it defied my expectations, and I really enjoyed myself. Del Toro has done a good job at bringing you into this narratively flawed, but quite whimsical world.