In Review

Film review: The Innocents 

Chilling Norwegian film about children who develop superpowers

This “disturbing and compelling” Norwegian film poses the question, “What would happen to little children if they suddenly developed superpowers?” Its answer, said Kevin Maher in The Times, is that they would “do very bad things” indeed. Set on a high-rise housing estate in Oslo over the course of a long, hot summer, The Innocents follows a group of “mildly neglected latchkey kids” who suddenly find they can do anything from “shamanistic spirit-jumping” to mind-reading. The most powerful of these “preteen demigods” turns out to be Ben (Sam Ashraf), a “dead-eyed tyke” who initially uses his new-found skills to fling rocks, but then deploys them to torture his own mother from afar, and hijack the bodies of susceptible adults, in order to use them to commit murder. The premise is of course fanciful, but with no “Marvel-style effects shots, laser lighting or bombastic orchestral cues”, this “chilling” film feels “more Ken Loach” than Doctor Strange

“Any film driven by child performances is particularly dependent on quality casting,” said Wendy Ide in The Observer. “In this, the film is first-rate.” The four main actors are “utterly persuasive, even as they are wielding cast-iron frying pans with their minds”. 

Director Eskil Vogt “never falls into the trap of explaining” how their superpowers have come about, said Alistair Harkness in The Scotsman, but instead focuses on the far more interesting “specifics of each kid’s individual home life”. Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw was turned into a film called The Innocents, and this one offers a “similarly creepy and psychologically nuanced portrait of the terrors of adolescence”. 

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