Innocence – review


Innocence (2014, dir. Hilary Brougher)

#52FILMSBYWOMEN is a campaign launched by Women In Film in an attempt to raise awareness of female filmmakers. Their initiative asks cinephiles to watch a female-directed film once a week for an entire year, and in this series I will document the films I watched as a part of this pledge.

Adapted from Jane Mendelsohn’s novel of the same name, Innocence is a supernatural horror that is full of surprises – the biggest surprise being that they actually managed to convince an actress of the calibre of Kelly Reilly to star in this nonsensical mess.

When Beckett’s mother drowns in a tragic surfing accident, our teenage heroine (Sophie Curtis) along with her dad Miles (Linus Roache) relocates to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in order to start their lives afresh. There, she enrols at Hamilton, an all-girl prep school where the staff are all young, sexy ladies; including the kindly campus nurse Pamela (Kelly Reilly), who later develops a romantic relationship with Beckett’s novelist father. Not all is as it initially appears, however, and when our protagonist learns of a string of suicides connected with the school, she begins to suspect the staff of having devilish intentions.

Directed and co-written by Hilary Brougher, Innocence takes on a familiar bloodthirsty-romantic plot in what seems like a deliberate ploy to cash-in on the ‘Twi-hard’ audience, but even by the mediocre standards set by YA adaptations, this is a thoroughly unimaginative, insipid affair. The film makes a loose attempt to straddle the line between fantasy horror and teen drama, but fails to commit in both respects. Ghostly visions experienced by our young protagonist are clearly designed to provoke scares, but with the less than convincing makeup and second-rate special effects, they look more unintentionally funny than frightening.

None of the young actors cover themselves in glory either. With a stilted performance and a disappointing lack of charisma, newcomer Sophie Curtis struggles to be a dominating screen presence in what is her first leading role; and her romance with the ‘boy-next-door’, a hot-shot skateboarder named Tobey (Graham Phillips), is absent of any spark or charm. The failure of the film obviously doesn’t fall on these inexperienced shoulders, however. With dialogue that makes Twilight sound positively Shakespearean, it would be difficult for any actor to say these lines with any sort of conviction.

Even from a simple technical perspective, the film has issues. Scenes appear to have been edited very purposefully in order to achieve a lower certificate, and it results in several plot points that remain unsolved and some genuine moments in which I wasn’t entirely certain as to what was happening. Poor Kelly Reilly makes an admirable attempt to bring some class to the proceedings, but even she cannot save this catastrophe.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆



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