The Innocents takes in place in 1945 rural Poland immediately after Russian forces have driven out the Nazis. Once a volatile war zone, the barren landscape now seems stuck in rigor mortis. Spidery snow patches web the ground, and leafless trees stretch for miles. Despite an eerie quiet, physical and psychological wounds are still fresh.
The film opens on a collection of nuns reciting verse. Their prayers are immediately interrupted by off-screen screams. One of the younger sisters runs in panic toward the local makeshift hospital run by the Red Cross. There she recruits a young doctor named Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) to return with her and aid the howling patient.
Upon further investigation, Mathilde learns that multiple nuns are in advanced stages of pregnancy after being raped by a platoon of Russian soldiers months before. Director Anne Fontaine refuses to sensationalize the horror of their plight or turn away from it. This kind of mass trauma has a smell, lingering on the purest of bodies and sanctuaries.
Sturdy and classically paced, The Innocents values the daily struggle of its characters trying to overcome such a crisis of faith. Mathilde's evolving relationship with a nun named Maria (Agata Buzek) roots these conflicts in a complicated vision of sisterhood that defies both religious and ideological classification.
At times Fontaine can't help but push the narrative further toward middlebrow melodrama, especially in the final act. But her pragmatic view of post-war life remains grounded in sacrifices great and small, brave acts of humanity that can sometimes go unnoticed while living in a place defined by pain.
Opening on Friday, Aug. 5, The Innocents proves that the residual effects of war continue long after the gunfire and explosions have stopped. People get through by focusing on the minor victories that can seem so major once human dignity has been mortally wounded.
Indignation: In the directorial debut of veteran producer James Schamus, a college student in Ohio comes to grips with sexual repression and cultural dissatisfaction amid the turmoil caused by the Korean War.
Nine Lives: Kevin Spacey plays an uptight businessman who finds himself trapped inside the body of the family cat. Yup, you read that right.
Suicide Squad: The latest film in the DC cinematic universe follows a bunch of super villains (Will Smith, Margot Robbie) who must band together to fight off The Joker (Jared Leto) and his henchmen.
The Innocents: In 1945 Poland, a young Red Cross doctor helping provide aid to war victims discovers a convent where multiple nuns are in advanced stage of pregnancy.
The Seventh Fire: Natalie Portman and Terrence Malick produced this documentary about a gang leader who must confront his role in bringing violence to the Ojibwe reservation in rural Minnesota. Screens through Thursday, Aug. 11, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One Time Only
Jaws: The perfect movie for the kids to watch before heading to the beach. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alfred Hitchcock remakes his own classic thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day as a complacent couple whose son is kidnapped by spies. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 4 and 5, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Jerry Maguire: Tom Cruise plays a disgraced sports agent who begins a new career path as he falls in love with a single mother. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 6 and 7, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Batman: Tim Burton’s gothic take on the caped crusader features stunning set design, a maniacal Jack Nicholson performance, and a great Prince song. Screens at 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, and 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 6 at the Ken Cinema.
Touch of Evil: Orson Welles stars as a seedy and corrupt detective causing havoc south of the border. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Stand by Me: Four friends growing up in the 1950s go on an adventure into the woods in search of a dead body. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.