Innocence

A beautifully acted, intensely felt story of a couple rekindling their first love five decades after they parted. Retired music teacher Andreas (Charles Tingwell), a widower with a grown daughter (Marta Dusseldorp), discovers quite by accident that his first love, Claire (Julia Blake), is living in a nearby town. He sends her a friendly letter, and when...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A beautifully acted, intensely felt story of a couple rekindling their first love five decades after they parted. Retired music teacher Andreas (Charles Tingwell), a widower with a grown daughter (Marta Dusseldorp), discovers quite by accident that his first love, Claire (Julia Blake), is living in a nearby town. He sends her a friendly letter, and when she responds favorably, suggests that they meet for lunch. To his delight, Andreas quickly realizes he loves Claire as much as he ever did — perhaps more, since his feelings are now colored by an intense awareness of life's fragility — and moreover, that she feels the same way. But Claire's situation is more complicated than his: While her marriage to Jack (Terry Norris, Blake's real-life husband) has become a matter of companionship and mutual ease rather than an emotionally vital partnership, she's hesitant to throw his life and that of their son, David (Robert Menzies), into turmoil. Nevertheless, after confronting her fears that she and Andreas are being ridiculous — she is, after all, nearly 70 — Claire decides to follow her heart. She and Andreas rekindle their affair, but the devastated Jack tries to win Claire back, while Andreas battles health problems that threaten to bring their hard-won idyll to a premature end. Dutch-born, Australian-based filmmaker Paul Cox skillfully weaves together the past and the present, slowly revealing the story of how the young Andreas (Kenny Aernouts) and Claire (Kristien Van Pellicom) met in post-war Belgium and were separated. Cox works the classic images of life's fleeting nature — water under bridges, trains passing, ephemerally lovely flowers and the dark void of the grave — but does so with enough skill that they don't overwhelm the story. And he captures moments of poignantly resonant beauty, as when the present-day Claire wipes the condensation off a bathroom mirror and sees the reflection of her youthful self. Standing in stark contrast to the condescending GRUMPY OLD MEN approach to romance between older people (as though the very thought were a joke), Cox's film is a complex, fully rounded portrait of two people whose sensuality and ardor is neither dampened nor cheapened by their age. Cox's script actually made its way to Hollywood — Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were reportedly interested — but in the end opted to shoot in Australia and in Belgium with esteemed but less internationally familiar actors. The result is remarkably moving.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A beautifully acted, intensely felt story of a couple rekindling their first love five decades after they parted. Retired music teacher Andreas (Charles Tingwell), a widower with a grown daughter (Marta Dusseldorp), discovers quite by accident that his fir… (more)

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