The Innocents movie review & film summary (2022)

Almost all of “The Innocents” unfolds at a large Norwegian housing complex, the kind of place where all of the buildings and apartments look generally the same, adding a mundane backdrop to a very unusual coming-of-age story. The phenomenal Rakel Lenora Flottum plays nine-year-old Ida, someone who is at that aforementioned age when boundaries are being drawn. Ida is also old enough to find herself annoyed by her autistic, nonverbal sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad). When Anna is bugging her, Ida will pinch her leg, knowing that her sister won’t even respond. She’s provoking. She’s trying to get a response. Kids do that at this age—pushing boundaries to see what happens next.

And then Ida meets a boy who already has long destroyed traditional boundaries and continues to go there. In an incredibly disturbing scene that animal lovers should be wary of, a boy named Ben (Sam Ashraf) brutally murders a cat. Ben has been bullied by locals and ignored by his single mother, leading to the kind of dissolution of moral values that sometimes creates a serial killer. But Ben isn’t your average growing sociopath because he can do things the average troublemaker cannot. It turns out that Ida and Anna have some strange powers too, as does Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), and all four of them seem more powerful when they’re around each other. It might sound like “The New Mutants” or “Chronicle,” but Vogt’s concept isn’t that mythologically deep. It’s more about asking “what if” questions about youth. What if a kid could get vengeance on a bully without even touching him? How far would they go? How would that shape his developing moral code? How does power impact innocence?

Ida is the first to realize that Ben is not only special but dangerous, and there’s an interesting gender dynamic in “The Innocents” that could be examined in a longer thinkpiece. It could even be read as a study of when young girls realize that the boys around them are dangerous, and how allyship is needed to overcome power imbalances. Vogt is the kind of writer who never spells out his themes with clear, underlined dialogue or plot twists. He trusts his audience, giving them ideas to roll around in their brains instead of spoon-feeding them simple moral messages.

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