Simon Chung | 2005 | Canada and Hong Kong | Video | 80:00 | English, Cantonese, and Mandarin with English subtitles | Canadian Premiere | Director in attendance
Vulnerable young teen Eric is at a crossroads in his life, both geographically and emotionally. A reluctant immigrant plucked from the familiarity of his Hong Kong existence to the rootless suburbia of Toronto, he struggles with his sexual identity while his nuclear family slowly crumbles around him. Soon, he finds himself falling for a succession of men while learning and growing from every painful experience.
Similarly, director Simon Chung also straddles two cultures. A Canadian filmmaker who lives in Hong Kong, he chose Toronto as the backdrop due to the parallels this story has with his own life. A culmination of the coming-of-age exploration seen in his previous shorts, this feature-length debut is an incisive and nuanced take on the difficulties in reconciling the often conflicting aspects of oneself – in this case, being Asian in North America and gay in a heterosexual world.
But the genius of this film is in the development of the incidental characters, most importantly Eric’s own troubled family members. Each comes with a set of all-too- believable flaws, rendering a mosaic of fractured souls that are as endemic in our society as they are tragic.
Innocent is a quintessential Torontonian tale. With new immigrants comprising such a large part of our social fabric, Chung forces us to face the reality of their existence, and to make us see the dark, grey world they face every day as they step out into their new lives.