Innocence Sophie Curtis, Kelly Reilly, Linus Roache. Directed by Hilary Brougher. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
Jane Mendelsohn’s 2000 novel Innocence has been praised for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of teenage emotions, but you’d never guess that from watching Hilary Brougher’s lifeless film adaptation. The lurking evil that Mendelsohn keeps ambiguous is very real in Brougher’s film, although it takes a frustratingly long time to emerge. Before that, teenage protagonist Beckett Warner (Sophie Curtis) does a lot of moping around her new school, an upscale all-girls academy outside Manhattan.
Something is obviously not right at Beckett’s school, which is run by a cabal of suspiciously placid, fashionably composed women, whose weekly book-club meetings hide something sinister. School nurse Pamela (Kelly Reilly) is the eerily calm ringleader, and she soon starts romancing Beckett’s novelist father (Linus Roache), a recent widower. Beckett sees flashes of horrors as she’s drawn more deeply into the school’s secrets, but neither Curtis nor Brougher do much to make the situation feel truly menacing. When the supernatural threats finally show themselves, they’re disappointingly pedestrian and cheesy, and just as disappointingly easy to defeat. Whatever allegorical potential existed in Mendelsohn’s novel is lost in favor of generic teenage petulance and worn-out horror-movie devices.