NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Mark who says... "It was a really moving film. It recalled a lot of the mystical and fantastical elements of “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
The movie opens on a black and white rendering of a turn-of-the-century silent film production, where there is some shouting and chaos as an accident with a stunt on a bridge has happened, and a dead horse is raised by pulley from the water below.
The movie then moves to a rehabilitation hospital, where a cherubic girl of about 6 or 7, of Hindi descent named Alexandria, wanders the grounds. She has her arm suspended, and is in a half body cast, later learned to be the result of an accident from the orange grove where she and her immigrant family work. She is working on a note in her room upstairs, on a piece of doily-type paper she has created, and she drops it below to a nurse with whom there seems to be shared affection, Nurse Evelyn (Justine Waddell). The note floats instead into a downstairs room, and when Alexandria is roaming the halls, she sees it is being read by another patient, Roy (Lee Pace, of TV’s “Pushing Daisies”). Roy is a Hollywood stunt double, who is paralyzed from the waist down, so is confined to a bed, with a bedside commode, and little to do. He is also pining over an unrequited love to a film actress, now with the leading man from the film where Roy was stunt double. Roy asks who Alexandria is, tells her the note does not make sense, light-heartedly questioning whether it is even in English, and Alexandria nabs the note back and scurries away. Roy wants to hold her attention. Upon learning her name is Alexandria, Roy tells her a story, to capture her imagination, about Alexander the Great (who he says she is named after), and his awaiting “a message” also. Alexandria imagines a centurion wandering a castle grounds with a horse, but when Roy tells her that Alexander is without horse, and lost in a desert, Alexandria re-imagines the story with Alexander among soldiers with parched lips, awaiting another soldier, who arrives and tells him all is lost because of his lust for water, and that the only water that remains is in a helmet that this soldier holds. Alexander pours the water from the helmet into the sand, and Alexandria protests “Why?” Roy tries to explain it in westernized terms, but it does not make sense to Alexandria. The doctors come, and Roy tells Alexandria to come back the next day, so he can tell her an epic story about India.
The next day, they start a give-and-take relationship; where he regales her with story so that she will do things for him, such as fetch medicines (Morphine and narcotics mainly). We also learn that Alexandria is very close to Nurse Evelyn, who comforts her when she is scared, and has a special understanding of the girl and her sense of whimsy. Nurse Evelyn is a nun, but she is having an affair with the lead doctor in the children’s area of the hospital. We also see the area where x-rays are taken. There are frightful men in full lead uniforms and cast iron masks (seemingly shielding them from dangerous radiation exposure) taking the x-rays; these strange men in outfits scare Alexandra.
On the first day, as Alexandria arrives, he is visited by another stunt double (Robin Smith) famously injured to where he has lost his lower leg, and walks with a peg leg. He urges Roy to accept a settlement from the studio. He scolds Roy for doing the stunt and falling hard for the lead actress on the film, who he was trying to impress with the stunt. He says that Roy, as a college educated man, deserves a better life.
Roy’s story starts with a Hindi man swimming to the surface of a small island to report back to four other prisoners that the brother of one of them is set for execution. (This tale makes up most of the story of the movie). The prisoners are all united by a hatred of Governor Odious, who they have sworn revenge on. Governor Odious has imprisoned them on the island to humiliate them, and Roy introduces them one by one. The first is a slave named Otta Benga, who Alexandria’s imagination embodies with a friendly ice-delivery man from the hospital. He was one of Governor Odious’ slaves, but when his brother died in the heat, he rebelled, led an uprising, and swore revenge on Governor Odious. The second is the Hindi man, called “The Indian,” who Alexandria’s imagination embodies with a friendly man from her home orange grove. He was a man of means who married the most beautiful woman in the land, but when Governor Odious fell in love with the woman and kidnapped her, leading to her suicide, he swore revenge on Governor Odious. The third is Luigi, a munitions expert, who Alexandria’s imagination embodies with the peg-legged stunt double who visited Roy earlier. Governor Odious feared him, so he was exiled, and upon returning, shunned by everyone he knew, as well as his church, at Odious’ insistence. He similarly swears revenge. The fourth is Charles Darwin (yes, that Charles Darwin. He is described by Roy as “the famous English naturalist.”) Darwin had sought a rare butterfly named “Americanus Exoticus.” Governor Odious mocked him by sending one of the butterflies of this species dead, thumbtacked inside a box, and as a result, Darwin swears revenge on Odious. The last one introduced, the tale’s main character, is the Blue Bandit, who is embodied, at Roy’s insistence, by the character of Alexandria’s father. Alexandria later confesses that her father has perished, in an attack on her house by “angry people” (thieves who burn down the family house, and steal their horses). Thereafter, she imagines Roy in this role. The blue bandit is the one whose brother is set for execution. He and his brother were captured and set for execution by Governor Odious, but Roy escaped. Now, he is intent on escaping the island, but he cannot swim. Darwin consults with his monkey, realizes, elephants can swim and are indigenous to the region, and they convince an elephant to swim to the island and carry the Blue Bandit to the shore, so all the prisoners escape together. Once on shore, they are ready to seek out and kill Odious, as well as rescue the Blue Bandit’s brother. Out of a smoky tree emerges a charred appearing holy man in a loincloth, who Roy refers to as “the mystic.” The mystic represents indigenous people, who swear revenge on Governor Odious for destroying their land. The prisoners storm the castle where the Blue Bandit’s brother is held. It is the mystic whose magical powers defeat the great number of guards. They are too late. The Blue Bandit’s brother has been tortured and killed.
Alexandra is rapturous over the tremendous tale, in all its detail and grandeur, but Roy interrupts the telling of the story to have her check his toes, to see if he is completely paralyzed. He is, but she does not tell him. There is a ruckus in the room, involving Roy’s doctor, another patient in the room, a wealthy hypochondriac who has only imagined illness, and an elderly man with dentures who play affectionately with Alexandria. The hypochondriac thinks Roy is telling disturbing tales to Alexandria and tells the doctor to make him stop scaring her.
When the tale continues, the Blue Bandit takes an oath of revenge, and they go in search of Governor Odious. Roy tells Alexandria he cannot sleep. He says he cannot remember the story to tell her more, unless she can go to the hospital infirmary, and get him Morphine. When he resumes the story, he tells her about the way the travelers look for Governor Odious using a map that Darwin unwisely placed in a box with bug specimens; the bugs have been eating the map, and the directions to the castle are obscured. (The map is also on one of these doily papers). Here starts a fascinating part of the film where the mystic swallows the map, said to be poisonous, then leads the team deep into a part of the desert where there is a jungle. Other indigenous people perform tribal dance, over the mystic’s body, and a map appears on his trunk that Darwin sketches into his pad. This is how they find their way onto the next leg of the journey. They ultimately come to a caravan where Odious’ flag flies, pulled by slaves. At the Otta Benga the slave’s insistence, they free the slaves, and surround the carriage, but the only ones to emerge are a princess and a child (said to be her nephew). They capture the princess, who is imagined by Alexandria to be Nurse Evelyn.
Roy now asks Alexandria to steal medicines from the wealthy patient’s cubby and get them to him. He says he will tell more of the story, but then when he falls asleep, she has to leave, and not come back the next day. He expects to be dead.
The Blue Bandit, now envisioned as Roy in Alexandria’s mind, falls for Nurse Evelyn, and she is discovered to be the fiancée to Governor Odious (just as Roy’s previous girlfriend, the actress, ultimately is found to be with the lead actor, the villain in the world outside the fantasy tale), and Roy and the others plan to execute her for treason, but when they shoot her, firing squad style, and she dopes not die, they discover the locket around her neck caught the bullet. This opened the locket, which now reveals a message for her: that she must not marry for wealth or power or riches. She and the Blue Bandit are subsequently married. Unfortunately, it is a trap, and the church fills with henchmen (always envisioned as men in suits like the x-ray technicians: giant cast iron masks and lead suits, growling like dogs). The travelers are all chained to an area in the desert, left to die, but rescued at the last minute by a young girl, who had been in one of their traveling packs all along (it is Alexandria, wearing a Blue Bandit costume). Alexandria encourages the telling of this part of the tale, just as Roy passes out.
Roy is suicidal; he is trying to overdose on the man’s medicine. The next day, Alexandria is shocked to find a stretcher with a deceased patient, who she thinks is Roy. Instead, it is the old man with the dentures. Alexandria is overjoyed to see Roy in his bed, but Roy is devastated. He realizes the wealthy patient’s pills were “sugar pills” (placebos) and shouts “There is nothing wrong with you,” and is restrained. Unfortunately, Alexandria is at a point in the tale where the suspense is too much. She cannot be consoled upstairs by Nurse Evelyn. She sneaks out to steal Morphine, hoping this will be enough to get Roy to tell her more of the story, but she trips and develops terrible head trauma, and there is a horror fantasy sequence where her father’s death, her fears of the hospital, and other childhood fantasies all take over. Roy is there, drunk, as she recovers. Roy has been scolded for making her steal medicines for him. He is tender with her, but can’t tell the tale to a child’s level because he is so distraught. All of the main character’s of the tale die in different, awful ways pursuing Governor Odious, and Alexandria protests that Roy should not make them die. Finally, the Blue Bandit and the young girl who is Alexandria in the tale, reach the grounds of the castle where Odious, imagined as the silent film screen actor, is found. Roy does not put up much of a fight. Roy tells Alexandria that he cannot, because he is weak, and he had his fingers crossed during his oath to avenge his brother. Alexandria keeps begging him, and says “Googly googly” out of her fear, then makes Roy promise to let him live. Roy promises (ultimately, it seems, promising to not commit suicide and give up on his own life). He is drowning in the pool of Governor Odious’ palace in the story he is telling, unable to rise from his legs because of paralysis the same as Roy is paralyzed in real life, but Alexandria asks to see his hands to make sure his fingers are not crossed, and when he raises his hands, the Blue Bandit in the tale regains strength to punch Odious and rescue himself. Odious ultimately stumbles back onto his own sword, and kills himself. Nurse Evelyn tells Roy he has passed the test, but Roy in real-life and in the tale resolves to see the world through less romanticized terms, and, with Alexandria, is resigned to life foibles and ready to move on past believing she will love him (BTW: the film’s director, Tarses, has said the film came from a period of despair in his own life on losing his girlfriend).
The movie closes with Roy and Alexandria watching the silent movie together where Roy was injured. Alexandra narrates that she returned to her family and the orange groves safely, and misses Roy, but that her mother told her he is fine and in movies, and whenever she sees a silent movie with stunts, she will know he is there.