Romances in movies tend to be quick, torrid affairs. People met then bed shortly thereafter due to the salacious qualities on screen or the lack of time. Movies rarely spend the time to delve into the relationship between two people and to understand what exactly it is that attracts them to each other. Innocence is a poignant new film from Australian director Paul Cox (Damiaan, The Hidden Dimension) that does take the time to take a step back and look carefully at things. Perhaps it is because the two leads play elderly people, instead of the young, hip couple usually seen on screen. Innocence spends so much time on the relationship that it is essentially a ninety-minute dialogue between people, and it is a testament that Cox can make it so engrossing for the duration.

The two people are Claire (Julia Blake, Passion, Hotel de Love) and Andreas (Charles Tingwell, The Inside Story, The Dish). Over forty years ago they fell in love and had a brief, passionate romance. Andreas discovers that Claire lives nearby and writes her a letter. She responds, and he is eager to meet her again. The problem is that Claire has a husband. However, her marriage to John (Terry Norris, Noah's Ark, Mrs. Craddock's Complaint) lacks any sort of romance at all. They are completely familiar with each other and their habits and seem more like roommates than husband and wife. Andreas is a widower, and both have adult children. So when Andreas wants to have an affair with Claire, she reluctantly agrees. The core of the movie is the emotional struggle within Claire. Is it right to cheat on her husband when there is little physical love between them? She still has strong feelings for John, just not the same ones he has for Andreas. John also emerges as a sympathetic character, since it seems that there is nothing he can do.

Blake gives a powerful, quiet performance, complemented by good performances from both Tingwell and Norris. The pain and love she feels looks. Cox presents her situation in a straightforward manner, and the devastating effects it has on her and her husband. This is a very adult (adult as in mature, not explicit) subject, and Cox handles it delicately. There is little to this movie except conversation, so the focus is completely on the actors and their acting ability. To help the viewer sense a better idea of Claire and Andreas' old romance, he uses a number of flashbacks. He shot them hazily, lending them a dreamy, surreal feeling like a memory. The young Claire (Kristien Van Pellicom, Pony Palace, S.) and Andreas (Kenny Aernouts) seem to be in an idyllic place together, and this just makes Claire's dilemma all the more real. It's an engrossing character study of these three people, and the only letdown is the ending, which is sort of a cop out.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Not Rated but contains mature themes, an easy PG-13 or possibly an R.

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