By Jeff Walsh
"Innocent" is a movie about a 17-year-old character named Eric who is surprised to learn early in the film that his family's vacation in Canada from their homeland of Hong Kong is permanent. They intend to stay.
Eric is dealing with his homosexuality, but is not the shy waif innocent we're used to seeing in movies, despite the film's title. He stars as his cousin's ass in the shower, sleeps with a middle-aged man who sees him buying a gay porn magazine, goes right in for the kiss with his schoolmate, and seems like there might be a spark with a worker hired at the family's restaurant. He may be awkwardly dealing with his sexuality, but he seems pretty clear about it.
The movie, by Simon Chung, seems to lack a central narrative that pulls you through the experience as a viewer. Eric has these dealing with his sexuality. His mother is trying to start a restaurant with the help of someone who seems romantically interested in her. The father is getting some extramarital action on his neighborhood jogs, and ends up returning to Hong Kong in the middle of the movie.
On its surface, it is the story of a family slowly breaking apart. There are financial problems, cultural problems. Only, we never knew enough about the family to care. Just like we want to root for Eric, only we're never quite sure what the desired outcome is for him. He's not struggling with his sexuality as much as unable to find the right guy. Join the club!
The narrative scenes are also interspersed with shots of Eric walking through fields, or of a flower, clouds rolling through the sky. I'm fine with an arty film, a coming of age film, or a movie about the breakdown of a family. But when that's all one movie that didn't hold together for me... not as much.
DVD extras: One of the highlights was seeing the interview with Timothy Lee, the actor who plays Eric in the movie. In the clip, he is animated, fun, lively, comes out as gay, says he had no problem shooting the sex scenes because he likes to sleep with guys. So, he was definitely acting in the film, because he seemed to be much more interesting in person than he was in character. One strange inclusion on the DVD was that all of the sex scenes where shot in that arty, 'my knee is raised to cover my crotch' way. But then in the photo gallery on the DVD, they show a reverse angle of one of the scene and all his full-frontal business is just...there. That seemed a bit odd. I didn't say unwelcome... just odd.