A decidedly un-showy Nordic blend of superhero and fairytale film, The Innocents manages to have more tension than most Marvel showdowns and captures the joys and cruelties of childhood with great skill. Nine-year-old Ida (Rakel Lenora Flottum) and Anna, her older autistic sister (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) arrive at a brutalist block of flats on the edge of a forest: a new home with their parents, who are busy and mostly absent. Ida is less than loyal to her sibling, pinching her to see if she registers the pain, and craving attention from her parents.
These flats are mostly empty, with families away for holidays, but Ida strikes up a relationship with Ben (Sam Ashraf) – who, it seems, can move things with his mind. The arrival of Anna seems to supercharge his powers, along with Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), a gentle moral compass who can understand Anna and read her mind. What starts off as a few games, such as mind-reading from distances, soon takes a darker turn, as Ben reveals a darker side, suffering at the hands of an abusive parent and indulging in some rather unpleasant cat cruelty. As their powers increase, telekinesis, mind control and tragedy occurs and a showdown is inevitable.
An arthouse blend of Chronicle and The Midwich Cuckoos with a Grimm fairytale vibe, written and directed by Worst Person In The World collaborator Vogt, The Innocents grips and disturbs. The performances from the young cast are superb: all are understandable, believably childlike as the ups and downs of nascent friendships are brutally explored. The camera work takes us somewhere disconcerting: the juxtaposition of modern architecture by nature, the world literally turned upside down amidst shadows and the bright Nordic summer. (CGI is limited to ripples on water and ground shaking around trainers.)
The brilliantly handled confrontations taking place in crowded playgrounds are tense despite their simplicity: children standing on opposite sides of a lake has never been so unsettling. A psychological children-with-powers horror that immerses us in a youthful world and provides a perspective on autism, The Innocents is an intelligent, slow-burn adventure that rewards. Maybe Marvel should go in this direction next.
Dir: Eskil Vogt (15, 117 mins)
Out Thurs 20 May
words KEIRON SELF
Advertise with us.
We have a range of options across print and digital.