Judith Hofmann is Ruth in The Innocent.
Photo: Fantastic Fest
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The Innocent is the most realistic genre film you’ll ever see, mostly because it leaves it up to each viewer to determine if it’s a genre film or not. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either the story of a woman who’s possessed by a demon—or, she’s just having a super shitty week.

Ruth (Judith Hofmann) is a mother of two with a loving husband and a checkered past. One day, after getting sick in her church group, her ex-husband—thought to be dead after serving 20 years in prison for a murder he probably didn’t commit—reappears. Then, Ruth uncovers something shocking within her family. Put all these events together and her religious friends start to believe that she has been possessed by an evil entity.

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Admittedly, that seems like a huge jump. The problem is Ruth is too ashamed to tell anyone about the family thing and, legally, her ex-husband is dead, so those circumstances aren’t helping her case. It’s also worth noting that Ruth’s day job is in a lab that successfully performed a head transplant on a monkey. So with that storyline peppered throughout the religious one, the result is an almost science versus religion parable where we’re meant to question what’s real, what’s possible, and what’s right.

Under the vision of director Simon Jaquemet, all of this is handled in the most grounded way imaginable. There are no huge action scenes. There are no big sets or flashy filmmaking tricks. Outside of a few specific angles and unexpected locations, Jaquemet keeps things very, very straightforward. The result is an exponential heightening of the events in the narrative which get increasingly unbelievable. From scene to scene, your opinion of what’s actually happening can, and will, change.

Toward the end of The Innocent, you may even get the feeling it could just cut to black at almost any moment. Things have escalated so much and Ruth has gone through such hell (maybe even literally) that it’s almost begging to stop. But it doesn’t. It just keeps going and going and getting better and better, leading to a very simple and direct but brilliantly open ending that will leave you questioning everything that you just saw.

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The Innocent isn’t a movie you’re just going to watch again and again on a Friday night, but it is a movie that will stay with you. It takes you on a very unassuming, very thought-provoking journey.

The Innocent had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018. It does not yet have a U.S. release date.

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