Innocence, starring Linus Roache (Batman Begins, The Chronicles of Riddick), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes, Eden Lake), Sophie Curtis (Arbitrage, The Art of Getting By), Graham Phillips (Evan Almighty, The Good Wife) and Sarah Sutherland (Beneath the Harvest Sky, Veep) seems to say that private school can be hell. It could even imply that book clubs in upper class learning institutes are bad for your health. The film does seem to be saying a lot in the time it’s on screen and doing so very well.
Co-written and directed by Hilary Brougher (Stephanie Daily, The Sticky Fingers of Time) the film is based upon the 2000 Young Adult book of the same name by Jane Mendelsohn. Both works of fiction tell the story of teenage girl Beckett Warner (Curtis) whose mother dies tragically – in a car crash in the novel and from a brain embolism while surfing in the film – and the girl, along with her father Miles (Roache), move to a highbrow private school for girls in Manhattan.
Soon after young Warner arrives at Hampton’s School a girl commits suicide by jumping from the roof. Narrowly missing Beckett and her father, the body lands at her feet. Later the girl finds evidence that other young ladies at the school have killed themselves and she begins to dream of the student she saw leap to her death.
The film follows Beckett as she attempts to get along in her new environment while getting over her mother’s death. The teen makes a friend in Jen Dunham (Sutherland), meets a boy Tobey Crawford (Phillips) that she really fancies and starts drifting away from her father and his new friend, school nurse Pamela Hamilton (Reilly). The movie also chronicles the teenager’s loss of her innocence as events move toward their almost inevitable conclusion.
As Beckett struggles through the everyday problems of a teenage girl falling in love and growing up she sees ghostly figures who lead her to disturbing truths about this private school. Before the film ends and the teenager loses her precious innocence, Beckett will go through hell while attempting to escape the danger she finds herself in.
The casting of this film was spot on. Roache as the father struggling to cope with his changing daughter is perfect; confused, angry, upset and concerned all at once. Reilly as the nurse who sets her sights on “dad” is scary, sexy, sympathetic and deadly. Phillips as the love interest comes across as the young man that most parents would love their daughters to bring home.
Curtis and Sutherland are very believable as the two teen girls who meet and bond over their lockers. It helps that both young actors look the right age. The pair do a splendid job as the slightly rebellious kids who have an alcoholic parent apiece. They are shown on the subway in one scene with shared earphones, listening to music and giggling at the “dirty old man” eyeing them up on the opposite side of the train.
The cinematography is suitably dark and dreamlike. The lighting manages to be moody and disturbing and helps to set the unsettling increase of tension as the film progresses. Overall the movie feels like a cross between the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby and the 1976 film To the Devil a Daughter .
Innocence is, according to its publicity, about teenagers, narcissism and a dangerous preoccupation with youth. These three themes are present via allegories in the film, which could also be about how it can be hell attending private schools. This movie has the feel of a good old fashioned Hammer horror film with its ever increasing sense that everything is not going to be alright at the end of the day. Innocence opens in cinemas countrywide on September 5. Brilliantly atmospheric and sure to delight Hammer horror fans.
By Michael Smith