Almost all of The Innocents is set in a large Norwegian apartment complex, where all the buildings and apartments look basically the same, adding a mundane backdrop to a very unusual coming-of-age story. The phenomenal Raquel Lenora Flottum plays nine-year-old Ida, who is at the aforementioned age when boundaries are set. Ida is also old enough to be annoyed by her autistic non-verbal sister Anna (Alva Brinsmoe Ramstad). When Anna gets her, Ida will pinch her leg, knowing her sister won’t even respond. She provokes. She is trying to get an answer. Kids are doing it at this age – pushing the boundaries to see what’s next.
And then Ida meets a boy who has long destroyed the traditional boundaries and continues to go there. In an incredibly disturbing scene that animal lovers should beware of, a boy named Ben (Sam Ashraf) brutally kills a cat. Ben was bullied by the locals and ignored by his single mother, leading to the destruction of moral values that sometimes creates a serial killer. But Ben is not your average rising sociopath because he can do what the average troublemaker does than not. It turns out that Ida and Anna also have strange abilities, just like Aisha (Mina Yasmine Bremset Asheim), and all four seem to be more powerful when they are around each other. It may sound like The New Mutants or The Chronicle, but Vogt’s concept isn’t that mythologically deep. It’s more about asking «what if» questions about youth. What if a child could get revenge on a bully without even touching him? How far will they go? How will this affect his evolving moral code? How does strength affect innocence?
Ida was the first to realize that Ben is not only special, but also dangerous, and there are interesting gender dynamics in The Innocents that could be explored in a more detailed review. It can even be seen as an exploration of when young girls realize the boys around them are dangerous and how an ally is needed to overcome power imbalances. Vogt is one of those writers who never sets out his themes with clear, emphasized dialogue or plot twists. He trusts his audience by giving them ideas to spin in their minds instead of spoon-feeding them simple moral messages.