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Eric, a Hong Kong teenager, finds his life turned upside down when a supposedly brief visit to Toronto ends up being a ploy for his parents to uproot the family permanently. Culture shock ensues as the cracks in Eric's parents' marriage begin to show, and Eric tries to establish himself in his new school and with various love interests.
Eric also happens to be gay. Innocent is not about his discovery of that fact; it is well-established from the beginning that he is attracted to men. When he moves to Toronto, he finds himself drawn to a number of them: from his incredibly good-looking cousin, to an older man he meets in a bookstore, to his new friend in school, and to a young cook in his mother's restaurant. In other words, he is a pretty typical teenager who is overrun with sexual energy as he stands on the precipice of adulthood.
Although Eric's romantic evolution takes center stage, there are other, equally absorbing stories at work. Eric's dad is experiencing a mid-life crisis, leading to a flirtation with a young girl who steals Playboy magazines for him from a local convenience store. Eric's mother is wooed by a man she meets in a class, yet her children mistrust him. Eric's sister, who is not a major part of the plot, conveys her complete frustration with her family, through perfectly rolled eyes, stomping around, and total attitude.
The acting, although it is solid overall, is kind of all over the place. Timothy Lee, as Eric, is so real in his character that he could be someone you knew in school. In contrast, the girl who tempts Eric's father, although beautiful, delivers her lines as though she is reading them off of cue cards. The best scenes occur when Eric interacts with his potential love interests – some of them are unaware of his desire for them, which makes for interesting, angst-filled moments.
The one flaw with this film is its ending. Not every viewer will be satisfied with it, as it is quite abrupt and leaves viewers wondering what will happen next, but not in a good way. There is no sense of resolution, and although this appears to have been done for artistic effect, having followed Eric through this tumultuous experience, it is somewhat of a letdown.
Don't let that stop you from checking out a great couple of hours of entertainment, however. Overall, Innocent is a compelling glimpse into the life of a teenager who is savvy, daring, and like all of us, just wants to be loved.
The picture on this disc, presented in anamorphic widescreen, varies greatly. During some of the more cinematically artistic scenes, it is sharp and clear, featuring gorgeous flowers and clean countryside. Then, during scenes that are filmed on city streets, the picture is grainy and unappealing. The overall experience, however, is a fairly good one.
Available in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound follows the same theme as the picture in its unevenness. At times it is great, at other times not so good. Indoor scenes sound better than the outdoor scenes. Viewers will want to enable the available English subtitles in order to catch all the dialogue, which like Monsoon Wedding before it, switches rapidly in and out of languages. Spanish subtitles are also available.
The special features, which are generous in their scope for an independent film, are a worthy investment of viewers' time. Two interviews, one with director Simon Chung, and the other with Timothy Lee, offer interesting tidbits into the filming. Chung discusses the making of the film in terms of securing financing and writing the script, and Timothy Lee discusses his own take on the character of Eric. Also included are two of Lee's short films, and for film buffs, especially those who enjoy independent films, they are gems.
Innocent is an entertaining journey into the life of a young man who, like anyone else at that age, is in the process of breaking away from the family structure and is at the same time defining himself as a sexual being. It is well worth a look.