Innocence

Paul Cox's new film, his 18th, chronicles an affair between two people in their 70s who meet after a 50-year hiatus, and fall in love again. To say anything against this tender, touching portrait of twilight passion risks putting oneself in a circle of hell just below little boys who pull wings off flies and just above theater critics. Certainly the film is chock-full of dignity and grace, not to mention awash in would-be profundities about the meaning of life and death. Julia Blake does make a septuagenarian sex object of surpassing beauty, and the couple's lovemaking is nothing if not tastefully done, the camera constantly cutting between the past (nubile young bodies rolling around in the grass) and the present (dignified peeks at their more mature selves betwixt the sheets). These lovers suffer from none of the little indignities of old age—Cox deals in nothing smaller than cancer and angels and organs and apotheoses. And they're blessed with children of rare understanding, who support with brio their parents' search for significance before the final bow. The one element of conflict and drama Cox allows to disturb the idyll (besides the Specter of Death) is magnificently played—the woman's husband's myriad reactions to his wife's betrayal, from uncomprehending pain to childish spite to an understanding that's 40 years too late. Only here does the film show any flash of humor, any departure from just-flawed-enough-to-be-human noble sentimentality. Otherwise it's all so overdetermined—each encounter of the present-day lovers mirrors some moment from the long-ago day when they parted—that it reduces their whole affair to a matter of last-minute revisionism. 92 min.

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