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Review: ‘The Innocents’ is a Poignant Drama About Faith, Doubt

Review: ‘The Innocents’ is a Poignant Drama About Faith, Doubt

Innocents

The touching and powerful post-World War 2 foreign film has been a niche art house hit.

The nuns in “The Innocents” are going through a crisis of faith. Based on true events and set during post-World War II Poland, “The Innocents” is about Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) a nurse from the French Red Cross who comes to the aid of several pregnant Benedictine nuns. Traumatized by the brutality of the Soviet soldiers and fearful for the recently established anti-Catholic government, she helps the grief stricken nuns medically and emotionally. There is a cultural conflict among Mathilde and the covenant since she doesn’t acknowledge faith. She grew up in an agnostic household. However, she is able to put her beliefs to side in order to achieve the greater good of caring for the nuns. The sister’s struggle with the concept of “God’s Will” with complex characters navigating a tough reality.

Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4

On par with previous foreign indie hits like “Ida” and “Phoenix,” “The Innocents” is a marvelous and quiet character study that packs an emotional punch as the plot progresses. The disciplined direction from Anne Fontaine (“CoCo Before Chanel”) skips sensationalism for the somber. Some moments among these dire circumstance could easily be over-dramatized, but Fontaine prefers to realism to impact the audience.

The-Innocents-Nun

The acting in “The Innocents” is the strongest element.

The acting in “The Innocents” is the strongest element. The drama is filled with meaningful scenes, but the naturalism is what is on display. Lou de Laâge as Mathilde is a revelation. I adored her competitive moments with Dr. Samuel (Vincent Macaigne) who she shares both enlightening and intimate conversations. This serves as a break from the bleakness in the convent. And “Ida” actress Agata Kulesza is “back in the habit” as Mother Superior in a different role than her starring role in the Oscar winning foreign film.

One aspect I truly admired was the use of nuns singing hymns to set the mood. This was minor, but something I subtly noticed during later scenes. This technical detail fills in the gaps of sound in a quieter movie. I didn’t pay attention to the musical score (if there was anything), but the use of singing nuns was effective to convey emotion and setting.

Entertainment Value – 4

I am going to play around by changing the rules with this category. Calling “The Innocents” entertaining is inaccurate, but it is an engaging watch for those who enjoy the spiritual themes and character development. For that reason, it is high on the entertainment scale even though a movie about WWII era nuns overcoming the grief of sexual assault isn’t entertaining. “The Innocents” is a riveting watch for art house audiences. That counts for something.

The notion of faith is a serious thing to some people. Our own experiences shape our worldview with how we acknowledge or deny God. However, those who believe aren’t sheltered from negative circumstances. And when trauma strikes, it can fuel doubt even among the strongest. These real struggles connects with audiences especially believers. I think thoughtful Christians will be the most engaged with “The Innocents.”

The-Innocents-Nuns-Church

“The Innocents” is a riveting watch for art house audiences.

Re-Watchability – 4

General audiences might be turned away with the harsher tones and subtitles, but older adults in bigger cities are flocking to this one. I actually think “The Innocents” would play well among faith based audiences eager to have discussions about spiritual themes during times of crisis. Many churches have a faith and film series and this would be ideal viewing especially among higher minded audiences (who wouldn’t mind reading subtitles). There’s a moment in “The Innocents” when a character says, “Faith is 24 hours of doubt and one minute of hope.” This isn’t one of those faith based Pure Flix movies where grief and doubt are miraculously washed away from the nuns and Mathilde converts to Christianity. “The Innocents” is grounded in reality. It is well worth re-watching and I plan to watch it a few more times.

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability

Summary

The nuns in “The Innocents” are going through a crisis of faith. Based on true events and set during post-World War II Poland, “The Innocents” is about Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) a nurse from the French Red Cross who comes to the aid of several pregnant Benedictine nuns. Traumatized by the brutality of the Soviet soldiers and fearful for the recently established anti-Catholic government, she helps the grief stricken nuns medically and emotionally. There is a cultural conflict among Mathilde and the covenant since she doesn’t acknowledge faith. She grew up in an agnostic household. However, she is able to put her beliefs to side in order to achieve the greater good of caring for the nuns. The sister’s struggle with the concept of “God’s Will” with complex characters navigating a tough reality.

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About The Author

Kenny

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers working as special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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