Susan Omand watched the short film Innocence, from Ben Reid...
When a worker falls to his death at a care home, it appears to be a terrible accident. But when a detective questions a young man with Down syndrome spotted at the scene, they uncover a crime more shocking than anyone imagined.
Well, this was a dark little film, in all senses of the word; physically dark because a lot of the action happens either at night, or utilising a very effective subdued palette as the investigative interview takes place the next day; and subjectively dark, but not just because of the dramatic defenestration of Mike the care home worker. I won’t spoil it much more than that, in case you get the chance to watch the film, which I do highly recommend. The film plays out in a clever mix of the current investigation and flashbacks to various events throughout the previous evening to lay the groundwork and give everyone involved a motive and the plot, although not overly complex, is full of excellent twists and turns in a way that you couldn’t second guess the next move which makes the denouement all the more shocking, although it makes perfect sense in retrospect.
The casting for the film too was top notch and, for me, a surprisingly star-studded line-up for an indie short. I could really believe in the filial connection between the central character of Dylan, played by Tommy Jessop, who is a resident in the care home where the incident happened, and James, his ex-con brother, played by Laurence Spellman, who has got a job in the same home. There was definitely a love/hate relationship going on there, exacerbated nicely by a particularly insidious line of questioning, trying to play one off against the other, from the main investigating officer Elizabeth Noble, played by Alice Lowe. Yes, that Alice Lowe of Prevenge, The Ghoul and Sightseers fame. Add in another Sightseers alumnus (and Ben Wheatley film regular) in Richard Glover as Mike, the “victim” who I ended up really disliking (in a very good way) due to how his character builds up through the flashbacks, and it makes for a very strong ensemble piece.
The most impressive thing about Ben Reid’s film for me, though, is that Innocence is not a film about disability, either highlighting the plight of a disabled person or making some kind of point or pushing an agenda. Instead, Innocence is a very good short-film thriller with some actors and characters who happen to be disabled. Their disability is an intrinsic part of the story, yes, but it’s not the whole story and I really wish that more films and TV shows would take a leaf out of Ben Reid’s book.