‘The Innocents’ finds horror and hope for the future of humanity

These children are so far from well that not all of them will make it to their next birthday.

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By Rob Hunter Published May 13, 2022

There is no singular definition for a coming-of-age film, but the essence shared by all amounts to a young person crossing over into adulthood…somehow. For some it’s as simple as forming a romantic relationship, while for others it’s about finding responsibility and purpose. for writer Eskil VogtHowever, a coming-of-age movie sees its characters find a truth within themselves that could determine the course of their lives. His subjects are typically adolescents (Thelma2017) or young adults (Oslo August 312011; the worst person in the world2021), but his latest feature film focuses on even younger protagonists. the inocents it’s about a group of tweens battling it out with new powers, and it’s not a fight everyone can win.

It is summer and the children living in a large block of apartment buildings are spending the day playing in the nearby woods or on the playground, making new friends or bullying younger children. They are testing limits, both their own and those of others, and away from the watchful eyes of adults, things are getting worse. Going (Rakel Lenora Flottum) and his family are new to the area, and the first friend he makes is Benjamin (sam ashraf). She shares that her autistic sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) can be pinched very hard without her feeling any pain, and Benjamin shares that he can move very small objects with his mind. Another girl named Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) has a power of her own in that she can hear people’s thoughts and feel what they feel, she’s the one who tells them that Anna can actually feel pain, but she can’t express it, and for a short time the four of them are loose friends. .

For a short time.

the inocents centers on four young children, innocent by any definition, who develop their own lines, boundaries, and moralities. We all find our own boundaries and empathy as children, some sooner than others and some never, and Vogt puts these four on a crash course in separating right from wrong. It’s a supernatural, genre-bending spin on something everyone goes through, and the result is a slow-burning gem that offers both horror and hope for humanity.

The film is Vogt’s seventh feature film as a screenwriter and his second as director after the brilliant but hidden Blind (2014). He has many talents as a writer, and the strongest of them is his ability to so beautifully and honestly capture the reality of youth. he does it with the inocents which he has done for young adult characters several times before by making them so raw and relatable. We have all been a combination of these children as our emotional selves have been built up piece by piece, one act of kindness, cruelty, or passivity after another. Curiosity pushes further, and regardless of the dramatic nature of the plotted outcome, Vogt’s films succeed largely because we are these characters and these characters are us.

Ida’s quiet cruelty (she puts glass in Anna’s shoe and joins Benjamin in dropping a cat down several flights of stairs) is challenged by how far Benjamin goes on his own. While even Anna is revealed to be in possession of special powers, young Ida is apparently the only one not subjected to such weight. As such, she becomes the audience’s window on the world, and it is her choices that shape the journey to a highly satisfying ending. In keeping with the overall pacing and style of the film, this isn’t the kind of third act you’d find in a X Men movie or some other Hollywood production about superpowers, but it is no less effective for its relatively low-key and emotional execution.

Plot developments are kept deliberately vague here, but trust Vogt to pull no punches when it comes to the film’s horror elements. Here are some truly visceral beats enhanced by nerve-wracking tension and horrifyingly effective sound design. the inocents it’s a horror film in which no character is really safe, but the film eschews a simple black-and-white approach to good and evil. Benjamin is arguably the movie’s villainous character, for lack of a better word, but his pain at the cards he’s been dealt is crystal clear. From a bruise on his stomach that goes unnoticed to the voluminous tears he sheds in the emotional slump after beating up girls, he is a boy full of feelings but not knowing how to handle them. It’s heartbreaking to witness, and it makes the events that follow even more disturbing.

As dark as some moments come here, the inocents It’s a gorgeous, dreamy-looking film. It’s almost as if cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen has channeled his own inner child by recreating the hazy, lazy days of a childhood summer spent playing outdoors with no sense of the passage of time. Vogt lets the camera do the talking even more for the characters than for their dialogue, and the four young actors prove exceptionally talented. They each win our hearts at one point or another, whether they’re seemingly aligned with good or evil, and we’re reminded that these aren’t characters beyond their years – they’re children and way over their heads. . .

fans of excellent Thelma (written by Vogt but directed by Joachim Trier) you might wonder if the two movies exist in the same universe, and it’s entirely possible. Both explore the idea of ​​young people capable of things beyond the ordinary, and the beauty, drama and terror that accompany the learning process are not so different whether they are nine or nineteen. the inocents Ultimately, it fits pretty comfortably into the “killer kids” subgenre even though it’s not played for cheap thrills or bloody jokes, but as anyone who’s ever been a kid can tell you, growing up can be pretty awful.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is strange considering he’s so young. He is our chief film critic and associate editor and lists ‘Broadcast News’ as his favorite movie of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter. @FakeRobHunter.

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