Orphan is a 2009 American psychological 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 mysterious nine-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 and was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009.
The film received mixed critical reviews although Fuhrman's performance as Esther was acclaimed.
Kate and John Coleman are rebuilding their troubled marriage. Kate had a drinking problem, but is in therapy and is doing well. She has been sober for one year. The couple decide to adopt a child. When they meet the nine-year-old Russian girl, Esther, at the St. Marina Orphanage, they immediately fall in love with the well-educated orphan. Their young son, Daniel, is hostile to his new sister; but their deaf daughter, little Max, is enchanted with her - at first. Eventually, Kate begins to feel that Esther is manipulative and possibly even psychologically disturbed. John refuses to listen to his wife's misgivings, and the wounds in their marriage reopen. Kate calls Sister Abigail at the orphanage, and the nun informs her that Esther has a troubled and mysterious history. Kate delves further into Esther's past and discovers she is not all she pretends to be.
Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) and her husband John (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 Estonian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), from the local orphanage. While Kate and John's deaf-mute daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) embraces Esther almost immediately, their son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is less welcoming.
One night, Esther walks in on Kate and John having sex.The next day Kate tries to explain what happened, beginning to say it's what happens when parents love each other very much, and Esther simply says "I know, they fuck". This of course shocks Kate as Esther is displaying far more knowledge of sex and its slang than would be expected for a child her age. Kate wants to bring her to a therapist, Dr. Browning, but John doesn't want to make all that fuss about "one little dirty word."
Esther's first day as school is not made easy for her as a classmate named Brenda teases Esther about her odd clothes. A few days later, Brenda once again teases Esther for carrying a Bible to school and throws it and has some pages fall out of it. As Esther tries to quickly pick up the pages, Brenda notices the ribbon on her neck and tries to grab it. Esther freaks out and screams. Later Esther sees Brenda at the playground and pushes her off a slide, breaking Brenda's ankle. Max saw Esther shove the girl, but covers for Esther by saying that the girl slipped.
C. C. H. Pounder), the head of the orphanage, warns Kate 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 cut Daniel's genitals off if he tells anyone what he saw. Kate is later told that the Russian orphanage Esther came from has no record of her ever being there. Searching her room, Kate finds Esther's Bible and sees an inscription, declaring the book property of the Saarne Institute. Confusing her even more, Kate finds out that Saarne is in Estonia, not Russia, as all of Esther's paperwork stated. Realizing that Kate is closer to figuring out her secret, Esther decides to torment Kate even more by picking flowers from Jessica's (Kate's stillborn daughter) grave. Kate grabs Esther's arm to get the flowers back and Esther runs away with a scream. Later that night Esther sneaks in John's work area, breaks her own arm in a vise, and convinces John that Kate broke it. In the meantime, Kate discovers that Saarne is not an orphanage, but a mental institution.Sister Abigail (
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 rock 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 hits Esther, calling her a bitch, and is subdued and sedated by doctors. John leaves with Esther and Max to go home while Kate slumps into unconsciousness again.
That night, Esther tries to seduce a drunk and dazed John, who finally realizes Kate was right to be suspicious of her. John threatens to call the orphanage about her, telling her to stop her behavior and go to her room. Esther goes upstairs, holding back tears until she reaches her room, then submits to a deep heartbroken crying spell before losing her temper and tearing up her room in a rage. She also takes off all her makeup, her prosthetic dentures, bandages that cover her breasts, her collar and the ribbons on her wrists. Esther then dresses in all black with her hair tied back, without all the makeup she now looks aged. John goes up later to comfort her and discovers her disturbing artwork in her dark, now-ransacked and empty room; shortly thereafter the electricity shuts off. When he goes downstairs to investigate, Esther catches him from behind and stabs him several times. Then she spots Max watching at the top of the stairs.
In the meanwhile, Kate is coming out of sedation; she gets a call from the Saarne Institute's director, Dr. Värava, who reveals to her that Esther isn't a nine-year-old girl at all, but a thirty-three-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. She has hypopituitarism, a disorder that stunted her physical growth, and has spent most of her life as a serial killer posing as a little girl.
When Kate gets home, she is finally pushed over the edge after discovering her husband dead. Kate goes looking for Max and in the process gets shot by Esther/Leena with the revolver she found in the house. Kate finally finds Max in their greenhouse while she peers down from the roof.
She breaks the glass and falls on top of Esther just before she can shoot Max. When Esther appears unconscious Kate takes Max and runs away from the house. 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 on the ice. Max grabs Leena's snubnosed revolver and tries 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.
Leena begs for her life and addressing Kate as her mother—while hiding a knife behind her back. Kate responds: "I'm not your fucking mommy!" and kicks Esther in the face, breaking her neck, sending her flying back into the pond.
The film ends with Kate and Max leaving the pond.
In an alternate ending on some DVD versions, there is no fight at the lake and Leena's neck is not broken. After Kate falls on Esther/Leena in the greenhouse and takes Max outside, Leena goes back up to her room where she changes into her frilly dress and reapplies her "Esther" make-up, not quite hiding her bloody scars, all the while singing "The Story of Love". She comes downstairs to sweetly greet the police in the same manner as she did the Colemans. It is left up to the audience to decide what happens afterwards.
Esther (b. Leena Klammer) is a woman who could be defined as a violent and deluded psychopath. She is highly intelligent, highly manipulative, superficially charming when needed, and lacks remorse. She can easily induce fear, empathy, and even admiration (as we see during her first interaction with the Colemans) when it suits her ambitions. She has extreme talent in music, and is apparently able to learn languages very quickly. The choice of the name "Esther" (alluding to the Biblical figure who was once an orphan and became Queen of Persia), multiple mentions of heaven, and carrying her male victim's pictures around inside an old Bible suggests that she is somewhat influenced by Judeo-Christian concepts - though clearly not on moral level.
Leena suffers from a pituitary disorder that causes her to be a proportional dwarf. Because she is physically not quite a grown woman and not quite a child, it is hard for her to have an adult relationship with a "normal" man, which is one of the things she yearns for. She was sexually abused by her father from infancy. When her father took on a new sexual partner, he informed Leena that it was because she would "never be a real woman". She was pushed into insanity and killed both her father and his girlfriend. She was subsequently caught and eventually placed in a mental institution (the Saarne Institute). Eventually she managed to escape, then unknowingly continued to allow herself to be abused by becoming a prostitute for wealthy pedophiles for years. When the police caught her, she pretended to be a child to avoid jail time and was sent to the orphanage, where she found her first family of victims and later moved on to the Colemans.
Leena was one of Saarne's most violent patients, forcing the staff to keep her in a straitjacket that she was constantly fighting to get out of. Continued struggling against her restraints caused scarring on her wrists and neck. So, to cover these, she wears ribbons. She escaped the hospital and tricked an American family, the Sullivans, into adopting her. Eventually, she tried to seduce the father, and when that failed, she killed him and his family and set fire to the house. After this she was taken in by an American orphanage where she eventually met the Colemans. Leena is continuing her efforts to find romantic/physical love in the only form she understands - a father figure.
"Saarne Instituute, kas ma saan teid aidata?" (Saarne Institute, can I help you?)
"Kuidas palun?" (I'm sorry?)
"Ma ei saa aru. Oota üks silmapilk." (I don't understand. Wait a moment.)
The building in the pictures shown in the movie is actually the Alma College, an institute that was a girls private school in St. Thomas, Ontario in Canada.
Built in 1878, the school was in operation between 1881 and 1988, and closed in 1988 in part due to a teacher's strike. Primary school and music classes were still taught on campus until 1994. Following its closure, the school building was used as a set for several movie productions; bedides Orphan, also Silent Hill (interior shots) and the made for TV movie, Mr. Headmistress (1997).
The location of the college is this but the building is not there anymore, because it was destroyed by a fire on May 28, 2008.
The main school building was destroyed immediatly, but the response to the fire was fast enough that the local fire department was able to save the music building and the chapel. An investigation by the St Thomas city fire department found the blaze, which began in the building's rear stairwell, was the result of arson.
In time, weathering, vandalism, and neglect continued to further damaging the surviving structures, until the remaining shell of the main building was torn down due to safety considerations by the municipal government of the city of St Thomas.
Shortly after the fire, two boys were arrested and charged with arson. The trial occurred on August 10–13 and September 2–3, 2009. In a ruling on September 24, 2009, the two boys were found guilty of arson and sentenced to 240 hours of community service and 2 years parole.