At an orphanage by the sea, a little girl named Laura has spent the best years of her childhood nurtured by an affectionate staff and surrounded by other orphans whom she loves like brothers and sisters. Laura is adored by them in return, and the uniformed boys and girls happily trail her onto the property’s front lawn to play their favorite games. When the day arrives for 7-year-old Laura to leave with her new parents, the staff of the Good Shepherd Orphanage delays breaking the news until the last possible moment. They know the separation will be painful for everyone, and that Laura’s friends will miss her terribly.
Thirty years later, Laura (Belén Rueda) returns to the stately manor house that holds such a special place in her heart. The orphanage was abandoned years ago; Laura and her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo) plan to re-open it as a center for sick and disabled children. It will be a place where boys and girls — including the couple’s beloved seven-year-old Simón (Roger Príncep) — can play freely in the open air, enjoying the sunshine and the nearby beach.
In its years of solitude, however, the orphanage has acquired a haunted, unhappy air. Simón, an inquisitive boy with a vivid imagination, is initially frightened by his new house and worries about the safety of his two imaginary friends, Watson and Pepe. Laura patiently reassures her son, sharing her own rosy memories of the Good Shepherd Orphanage. Thus calmed, Simón begins to explore the building and its environs. After playing in a surf-slicked beach cove one day, Simón announces that he has befriended a little boy. Like his other playmates, his new friend, Tómas, appears only to him.
Simón’s circle of unseen friends quickly expands to include five more boys and girls, who tell cryptic stories and engage him in elaborate games that carry a suggestion of the sinister. Troubled, Laura allows herself to get sucked into her son’s eerie world, which seems to resonate with a far-away and disturbing echo of her own childhood experiences.
As the opening day of the children’s center approaches, tension grows among the family. Simón wants only to play with his invisible friends, frustrating his parents. But while Carlos believes he is merely acting out to get their attention, Laura suspects that her son’s behavior is tied to something deeper and darker concealed within the house’s history. Then, the unthinkable: while parents and children enjoy games and sweets at center’s opening party, Simón insists on playing in his own private world … and disappears.
Convinced that her family’s survival is at stake, Laura sets out to learn what happened at the orphanage after she left. To the alarm of those she loves in the here and now, Laura plunges headlong into the past — and into an isolated netherworld where the dead reach out to the living.