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Overall Rating
4.09

Awesome51.16%
Worth A Look: 11.63%
Just Average: 34.88%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 2.33%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings


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Innocence (2001)
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by Andrew Howe

"One of the picks of the year"
5 stars

In an age when a trip to the multiplex so often results in another soulless blockbuster or impenetrable art-house disappointment, Paul Cox's Innocence is ninety minutes of rarefied mountain air. Infused with a genuine love for its characters and the warmth of a fireside embrace, it is a film for everyone who knows that we will always be too old for lies.

Innocence's road to an Australian distribution deal was a long and difficult one (though Ebert labelling it the best film at Cannes 2000 didn't hurt its chances), and the reason is rooted in the harsh reality of audience demographics. All three protagonists are over the age of sixty, and with the possible exception of On Golden Pond I can't think of a single commercially successful film which focussed on the concerns of the blue-rinse set. This is our loss, since no matter how far we travel the universal issues of love, duty and the call of the past are never far behind, and to say that the life of a sixty year-old has no relevance to a college student is to deny the fate which awaits us all.

Andreas and Claire were star-crossed lovers in the heady days of youthful optimism, European vacations and al fresco lovemaking. Fifty years later they meet once more, having lived lives of marriage, children and heartfelt loss. They realise that their love has endured, albeit in a different form, and despite the fact that Claire is still a partner in a forty-five year marriage they rekindle the flame anew.

Done poorly, this premise is a one-way ticket to schmaltz and soap-opera emotion. However, this is an Australian feature, and antipodean films are renowned for their ability to skirt the Hollywood gloss machine. A ring of truth pervades the events depicted herein, and the film holds a mirror to everyone who has ever wished they could meet an old flame one last time, and wondered what they would say.

The film stars Charles Tingwell, a veteran of Australian cinema and television since the 1950's, and Julia Blake, who has been quietly building an acting resume since 1977 (though Travelling North is her only performance which immediately springs to mind). They bring a quiet dignity to their roles, and their low-key performances are the film's greatest asset - each brings to mind a loveable, stubborn grandparent, a person whose emotions and inner yearnings have become buried beneath a gentle walk into the good night. Their bodies are frail, their voices infused with the weary resignation which comes to us all at the tail-end of a long and trying life, but there are moments when their advanced years appear to be little more than an ill-fitting garment, leaving their youthful passion obscured but intact.

They are ably supported by Terry Norris as Claire's husband John, a man whose comfortable way of life has come at the cost of an emotionally satisfying relationship, and Marta Dusseldorp as Andreas' daughter, the kind of offspring we dream of having by our side as the years wind down. To watch these actors at work is to feel that you are spending time in the company of old friends, and the illusion is strengthened by Cox's understated delivery. The film features the odd flight of fancy - a dream sequence here, a touch of symbolism there - but by and large he tells it straight. This is to his credit, since it lends an intimacy to the proceedings which further enhances the film's impact.

There are many highly-paid screenwriters who could learn something from Cox's script, for it replaces manipulation and plastic sentiment with something far more powerful - honest, sincere emotion. This is a deeply affecting, insightful film, and there are moments which will tear the heart out of all but the most hardened of souls. There are a number of scenes which are almost too painful to contemplate - Andreas attending the exhumation of his wife's grave as the cemetery is moved to make way for a real estate development; John's heartfelt attempts to make amends for several decades of self-absorption - but there are also some touching meditations upon the physical and emotional changes wrought by the passage of years (Cox continuously juxtaposes images of the young lovers with their aged counterparts, and while it's hardly original it makes for some poignant and affecting comparisons). We are adults, the film tells us, and should behave as such, and there are moments which make you long for the day when the pointless facades and petty insecurities can be consigned to the dustbin of history.

I am not normally given to superlatives, but I say this without reservation: this is a wonderful film. It is a rare gift, its aching, bittersweet tune leavened with warmth, compassion and the knowledge that no matter where we go, or how far we travel, the people we have loved will be with us always, for no emotion that powerful can ever truly die. It's not about stars, and it's not about budgets - it's about the truth, and the tragic, glorious arc of an ordinary life in an uncaring world.

I have been known to end reviews with the words "It won't change your life", but this is one film which may do exactly that. Seek it out any way you can, for it knows no boundaries, and reminds us that, at the close of day, we are always too old for lies.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4414&reviewer=193
originally posted: 07/24/00 00:28:37
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User Comments

5/09/11 brian The bittersweet taste of trying to recapture the past. 5 stars
6/14/04 L.J. Could have been better, not sure why it won so many awards. 3 stars
4/02/04 Vincent A subtle yet honest movie that offers the viewer a glimpse into a very special relationship 5 stars
6/24/03 Josh Russo It's a great movie! 5 stars
10/11/01 Rutegar Dupree Good cast. Good performances.Interesting &daring story frequently gets schmaltzy. 4 stars
10/06/01 Suzz This is a film that is in love with being an art film. The dialogue is sitlted and comes at 3 stars
9/07/01 Heather Amazing movie, just blew me away! %^ 5 stars
7/18/01 ali asakl 5 stars
5/24/01 mm it might interest people to know that Blake and Norris are married in real life 4 stars
2/18/01 Anna Russo a film about a very selfish man 1 stars
2/17/01 Mark Burton This Film has touched me deeply, "A Must See" 5 stars
1/03/01 Bob P Wonderful 5 stars
12/21/00 LOUISE-ANDREE Loved it - very delicate, elegant - saw it at the MTL FF. 4 stars
12/21/00 Michael "Innocence" is a wonderful story for all ages reminiscent of "On Golden Pond" 5 Stars! 5 stars
12/17/00 Lindl Lawton thoughtful, honest, beautiful 4 stars
12/12/00 justine i wont to see it where can i see it in sydney,now 4 stars
12/12/00 jobay grate i really liked it 5 stars
9/25/00 Frankie Paiva Great acting and camera work, but overlong with bad script. 3 stars
8/17/00 neil bartlett absolutely magnificent 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Aug-2001

UK
  N/A

Australia
  21-Dec-2000 (M)




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