Billed as a Polish-French film with English subtitles and based on true events, The Innocents takes place in 1945 Poland at the end of World War II. Lou de Laâge plays Mathilde, a young, French doctor treating patients who have been liberated from the concentration camps. One day a nun comes to the hospital where Mathilde works and asks for help with an emergency at her convent. At first Mathilde refuses, but eventually accompanies the nun back to the convent. There, she discovers a pregnant nun who needs immediate help delivering her baby. This encounter leads to other secrets about this order of nuns and what the nuns have been willing to do to protect their secrets.
This movie is riveting and I recommend you see it before it leaves theaters. It is suspenseful, with a full and rich plot. The story is fresh and the restrained yet intense acting is brilliant; although, several of the scenes are horrifying to watch for various reasons. The Innocents also passes the Bechdel test with flying colors as these women discuss womanhood, woman’s health, religion, faith, life, love and more.
This movie illustrates the everyday vulnerabilities of being a woman; a woman of any ethnicity, nationality, religion, anywhere in the world and the savagery of war. It shows the stark contrast between these otherwise gentle, sequestered nuns and the brutality of the outside world. It shows the many different human reactions to absolutely absurd and inhumane tragedy – the sort of life events that are nearly impossible to wrap one’s head around: Would you break down, give up, fight harder, do the unspeakable, find the silver lining? Would you break rules, persevere, question and challenge? What would you do?
Following these tragic events (which are downplayed in the film quite a bit compared to what really happened), many of the nuns are torn by crises of faith that are so very understandable and make the characters so genuinely relatable, you cannot help but feel great compassion for them. They are asking, “Why me and/or us God? Where were you when we needed you?” It’s a question many people ask at times of tragedy; but the fact that these are women whose very lives are literally dedicated to serving God and being obedient to His word asking makes the entire scenario all the more heart wrenching.
Contrary to popular belief, nuns are not super-beings or robots, but women with emotions and questions and quandaries. When the movie starts, you will be thinking to yourself, “How am I supposed to be able to tell all these nuns apart from one another?” (Or maybe that’s just me.) But as the movie evolves, so do the characters and we get to know the nuns individually. They even appear less and less in groups and less and less in habits. We get to hear their voices, see what their hair looks like, see their entire face, make distinctions among them. We see this woman of science, Mathilde, a non-believer, who is so very different from these nuns in so many ways at the start of the movie, relate to them more and more deeply as the story progresses and you will feel as if you are learning more and more about these nuns with her.
The Innocents earns 9 very strong bloops. It is a very moving film and will hold your interest for every second of its hour and 55 minutes. It came so close to earning a perfect score, but there was one part I did not care for, that I won’t tell you about, of course. You’ll know it when you see it, I believe. Even with that snafu, The Innocents is one of the best films I have seen thus far this year and I hope you go to see it as well.