A man named Mike has fallen to his death from the window of a care home. The police come to investigate the crime scene, which looks increasingly suspicious. An orderly named James works there, and Detective Elizabeth Noble discovers he has been drinking on the job and could be in a lot of trouble as the prime suspect.
But when the detective discovers James’s brother Dylan — who has Down syndrome and lives at the home — on security camera footage, she questions Dylan and uncovers a crime more shocking than anyone has imagined.
This suspenseful drama — directed by Ben Reid from a script co-written with Owen Gower, and produced by Sweetdoh Films — is as compelling and powerfully absorbing as any excellently wrought crime story. Like many stories in its genre, it emphasizes both intelligent and clever storytelling and a deft, dynamic sense of craftsmanship. It also shares a shadowy, noir-influenced approach to visuals that knows exactly what the audience needs to see to derive maximum impact and engagement. But the story also possesses a worldview and humanity that makes it just more than an average crime drama, provoking thought about our own perhaps unexamined expectations about people with Down syndrome.
The script here is excellent, with a tight, lean structure and supreme control over the flow of information. The storytelling is calibrated, like many terrific crime narratives, to pull in viewers by building up and then revealing a mystery, and the pacing and editing maximize tension without sacrificing an intimacy of character that elevates it beyond genre into something truly exceptional.
Dylan is the fulcrum of this mystery, and his character is essential to the film’s taut narrative action. Lead actor Tommy Jessop offers a singular, powerful performance, playing Dylan with nuanced steeliness and intelligence. Each moment that his character is onscreen possesses specificity and precision, with complex layers of emotion that reveal and intrigue in equal parts. His character is key to the central mystery that the police seek to unravel when they discover the dead body, and Jessop’s portrayal is the strong foundation of the film’s ultimate impact, as a true protagonist of the story whose actions and motivations drive the story forward into a thrilling, unexpected conclusion.
Like many crime dramas, “Innocence” painstakingly builds expectations, only to upend them to deliver a twist at the end. But what is brilliant here is how the story leverages expectations of people with Down syndrome as having little agency or even understanding of their lives, using this limited way of looking at people to a powerful advantage in the story. But this perspective — in both the narrative and in real life — is often simply not true. And in “Innocence,” the conclusion upends this to generate an unforgettable ending — as well as broadens our understanding that people like Dylan can make choices and take matters into their own hands to set the course of their lives.