A new place and a new beginning, a high-rise block of flats atop a wooded hill, open spaces to explore and new friends to make, everything is different for nine year old Ida yet nothing is changing; required to always be keeping an eye on her sister despite being the younger of the two, Anna is non-verbal, diagnosed with severe autism when she was four years old, regressing from the previously typical child she had been.
Exploring the surrounding area the sisters meet Benjamin and Aisha, each of them the children of single mothers in the neighbouring blocks, he brash and she timid yet with a strange affinity for Anna. Apparently able to understand Anna’s attempts to communicate, even prompt her to speak short phrases, Ida’s mother doesn’t believe her, so who can she turn to when she has other more terrible things to tell?
The children wearing bright patterned clothes as they play in the sunshine, Ida all tumbles of blonde hair and blue eyes while her sister wears a more manageable bob, they are The Innocents (De uskyldige) of writer/director Eskil Vogt, his young leads Rakel Lenora Fløttum (Ida), Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim (Aisha), Sam Ashraf (Ben) and in particular Alva Brynsmo Ramstad (Anna) absolutely convincing at every step into the unknown.
The presence of parents almost superfluous, they do not see what their children are going through, would not believe it even though they would possibly have vocabulary to describe the phenomena: telepathy, telekinesis, the ability to possess the mind of another and control their actions, the temper and grievances of an angry child enacted with the strength of an adult.
The minimal effects showing exactly as much as is required to convey the powers of the children, apparently magnified by proximity and exposure to each other and each growing stronger as they learn, without supervision their behaviour also reflects that of those around them; Anna always requiring attention, it is understandable that Ida would feel slighted, overlooked, and what is to stop that jealously from translating to cruelty?
With echoes of both The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids of John Wyndham, The Innocents understands the consuming totality of a child’s emotions from moment to moment, feelings which overwhelm and demand action without concept of consequence, games of sticks and stones escalating to broken bones as the film undergoes a stressful and rapid metamorphosis from carefree sunny days to a nightmare where the locked front door of home offers no safety from petty revenge.
The Innocents will be released in cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday 20th May