Thanks not a little to the extremely talented and astonishingly dreamy Ivana Baquero, a thirteen-year-old Catalonian answer to Audrey Tatou, and some really effective and creepy special makeup effects, this fairy tale for grownups (kids probably won’t dig the Spanish Civil War setting, or the graphic torture scenes) is engrossing from start to finish. I’m not entirely sure what del Toro is up to here, though. Sometimes it seems like we’re supposed to be reading the movie as a political allegory–given its Fascist villain and its Republican heroes, how can we not?–but then at other times it seems like all the political issues are only supposed to serve as a generic “bad situation” for the young heroine to escape through imagination. In other words, I came out of this feeling sort of like I did coming out of Children of Men: thoroughly entertained, but somewhat unclear about how history is being deployed. Do these movies intend to illuminate the historical moments in which they’re set, or are they using those moments to create an emotional or tonal backdrop? Are these movies about public life or private life? I’m a little troubled by this trend. The more I think about it, the more recent examples I think of. Syriana and Hotel Rwanda are good counterexamples. But, troublingly–and tellingly?–they were boring.