Written and directed by Eskil Vogt, during the bright Nordic summer, a group of children reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking. In this original and gripping supernatural thriller, playtime takes a dangerous turn. Starring: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Morten Svartveit.
There’s an immediate air of darkness to The Innocents, it creates that quintessential feel of doom and foreboding. The cinematography from Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Victoria, Another Round) captures the sinister mix of innocence and power, with its strong use of colour and sharpness, then emphasising it with the film’s natural, wooded locations. Eskil Vogt’s direction moves in a slow, pensive and uneasy manner, keeping you on edge by leaving a bounty of ominous possibilities. It holds a dense atmosphere and dabbles with a feel for the creepy, violent and intense. However, the violence doesn’t become a crutch, it’s used sparingly to accent key moments.
However, the look and atmosphere of the film may feel original but the story is all too familiar. Exploring the danger of children, especially those who are neglected, coming into a power or special ability has been seen in a wide variety of genres from horror to superheroes. The disadvantage of that is there isn’t much to this story that you can’t see coming. An issue which is only then emphasised by the film’s slow pacing, meaning that it draws itself out in a fairly unnecessary way. Although, for anyone unfamiliar with this type of story, it will likely work very well. There’s a sincere vein of sadness that runs simultaneously alongside its sinister themes, and the tone is overtly aware of the negative, drastic consequences to this burgeoning power.
It’s an undeniable risk basing your entire film around a cast of children, finding the right actors to not only do well in their role but to have good chemistry with others is no easy task. Thankfully, they found a fantastic bunch of kids to take on this film. Rakel Lenora Fløttum takes the lead and presents a child in conflict, seeking attention, resenting having to care for her sister, wanting excitement but then becoming slowly aware of the consequences. Sam Ashraf gives us the boy who’s rejected by the other boys, turning to the girls and finding solace but never losing the chip on his shoulder. He has a genuine intensity, it’s not a nuanced character but he holds an impressive presence. The real surprise comes with Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, who gives an incredible performance. She brings a stunning depth and maturity to Aisha, with such a generous and kind personality, connecting so strongly with Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) because of her compassion and empathy. Asheim’s portrayal is undoubtedly one of the strongest elements that the film has to offer, her character gives a touch of the original which is otherwise missing. It’s only a shame she didn’t get to take more of the lead.
The Innocents is beautifully shot, full of colour while building a strong, dark atmosphere but is ultimately let down by a predictable story. It treads too familiar of a path while moving at a slow pace and keeps you waiting for a conclusion that isn’t much of a surprise. However, it’s filled with an impressive young cast and Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim is a real highlight, giving a stunningly mature and layered performance. It has a brilliant visual and for those less familiar with this type of story, it will be a memorable watch.