A scene from 'Innocence'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 95 minutes | Unrated
Opened: Friday, October 26, 2001
Directed by Paul Cox

Starring Charles Tingwell, Julia Blake, Terry Norris, Robert Menzies, Marta Dusseldorp, Kristine Van Pellicom, Kenny Aernouts


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Reunited lovers frolic again after half a century and face the consequences in 'Innocence'

By Rob Blackwelder

Fifty years after a tender, melodious love affair, two septuagenarians sweethearts are reunited and find their hearts rekindled in "Innocence," an ardent and touching -- if sometimes obvious -- life-affirming romantic drama.

After discovering they've been living in the same unnamed European city for years, widower Andreas (Charles Tingewell) and his first love Claire (Julia Blake) spend a day together catching up like old friends while memories of their youthful lovemaking play in their heads (and on the screen in warm, colorful, silent flashbacks).

Lonely and instantly smitten all over again, Andreas persuades Claire -- married for 45 years to a man who is more a friend than a lover -- to meet again and again until she too is so flush with re-awakened ardor that her whole life is turned upside down by her very first extramarital affair.

Andreas and Claire spend nights together while her husband loudly and angrily objects, but does little else for fear of driving her away faster. They recapture a little youth here and there, eyes a-sparkle as they neck on a riverbank or sneak into a church where he plays the organ, as he did when they first met.

Writer-director Paul Cox continues to add emotional depth and breadth with visions of their earlier love, featuring winningly attractive young actors who bear a passing resemblance to their elderly counterparts, but more importantly share that sparkle in the eyes, which is by itself enough to draw the audience into the passion of the characters' souls.

But because "Innocence" is a film about lovers in their autumn years, rather predictable health problems begin to play a large part in the plot, with Andreas visiting the hospital on several occasions (while keeping his ailments a secret) and Claire popping the occasional pill in such an everyday fashion that it begins to feel all too deliberate on the part of the director. Clearly she has a secret health problems too, although neither of them show symptoms of anything except their growing devotion.

Once "Innocence" starts down this path toward a "live life to its fullest while you can" message, the film begins to feel fabricated, and by extension begins to feel lengthy since you know exactly where it's going. But sentimentally, "Innocence" strikes a truthful and touching chord all the way through to the closing credits.


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