Show + tell: top telly
The new supernatural series The Innocents has it all: star-crossed runaway teens and Guy Pearce in a lead role
IT’S THE EVE of June Mcdaniel’s 16th birthday and her father is splitting a pill to pop into her porridge. June is secretly in love with Harry, with whom she mostly corresponds by good, old-fashioned snail mail. She lives in a farmhouse at the backend of somewhere cinematically both rueful and picturesque. Mum’s gone awol. Dad’s a tyrant. Next door, in an outhouse that looks like the Nazareth stable Jesus was born in, she delivers meals to her disabled and severely agoraphobic brother. Tomorrow, June and Harry will run away from it all. Because they are The Innocents.
This warm, weird drama is cut from some of the same cloth that made The End Of The F***ing World an early TV highlight this year. Both owe a debt of stylistic gratitude to Skins. To avoid the feel of a soft-peddling teen romance, it shows its supernatural hand early. A troublesome figure called Steiner keeps appearing, sometimes just in his old white Y-fronts, a screen wardrobe signifier for madness ever since Walter White first stepped into his on Breaking Bad. His appearance indicates that June is surrounded by more than the torpor of teenage life. She has the disarming ability to turn into other people.
Cursed with her Kafka-esque character, this startling travelogue turns into something more mystical. The hot-button topics of mental health and gender are woven through a thoughtful, beautiful script. The Innocents is a show about desire and loneliness, too; about what we can rely on when corporeal familiarity is stripped from us and reinvented. Far away, in an inlet locked in a forbidding fjord and alarming Scandinavian mountain range, Mike from Neighbours (Guy Pearce) is trying to organise a working commune to stabilise the lives of others suffering the same inconvenience, including June’s missing mother, Elena.
The Innocents themselves, Sorcha Groundsell as June and Percelle Ascott as Harry, are a disquieting joy to watch. Groundsell has already made a name for herself in the brilliant Clique. The Innocents should turn her into a star. This is a strange, pleasing beast, touched with just the correct spoonful of hormonal imbalance and warped imagination. On Netflix now
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