Clare Holman in The Innocent (2001)

Innocent Until ...

Beth (Caroline Quentin) and David Pastorov (Paul Rhys) are happily married; he's a promising young barrister in Leeds whilst Beth gave up her career as a solicitor to be a full time mum to their children. At the courts David works with Alison (Clare Holman) who just happens to be Beth's best friend and David's equal in the courtroom especially when it comes to defending a husband accused of raping his wife. But one night following a party and having dropped Beth home David takes Alison back to hers and proceeds to rape her which he denies when Alison reports him to the police but then changes his statement to that they had consensual sex when DNA tests proves there had been intercourse. David's actions have devastating effect on everyone from Beth moving out to Alison's superior who decides it would be best if she moved offices whilst this matter is dealt with.

Any movie or TV mini-series, as "The Innocent" is, which deals with the subject of rape is walking in to a mine field; portray women as men hating schemers and you will upset one crowd, portray all men as sexual predators and you will upset another crowd. As such very few movies which deal with the subject of rape get it right when it comes to the balance and sadly "The Innocent" isn't one of them. That doesn't mean it isn't interesting and in fact is a cleverly worked drama as it serves up a first half of ambiguity. But it not only ends up out of balance but also ends up coming across quite cliche.

Paul Rhys in The Innocent (2001)

Let's concentrate on the first half as we enter the lives of Beth, David and friend Alison, they are all very close as David and Alison work together whilst Alison and Beth are best friends, their children all go to the same school. We also see when it comes to the judicial service not only is Alison's treatment of a wife who said she had been raped by her husband as harsh but there were all the knowing looks and winks between colleagues. But the most significant thing is that we never see what went on between David and Alison, we see how Alison initially cosied up to David but then stopped as she felt guilty but we don't see what happens next, just the morning after with David carrying on like nothing happened whilst Alison looking troubled by the night before. Did they have sex or not? Well the police show up and arrest David for rape during his daughter's birthday party.

It is simply the fact that the first half has an ambiguous side which makes it interesting because we don't know what went down that night. If it wasn't for the ambiguity, the not knowing it would all be cliche as we have a typical family set up, typical characters and so on. And that sadly brings me to the second half and a side which for me undoes everything which was right in the first half as it quickly makes it clear that David is guilty and then we are served up every cliche going from Alison wanting, dressing for it, the old boys club and work sexism. Now I am not saying none of these issues don't happen in the real world but it makes "The Innocent" a cliche drama which retreads the same ground that many other movies have walked but does so over 180 minutes which in truth it didn't need to be.

This second half sadly pushes "The Innocent" out of balance as it takes a strong feminist stance over male attitudes and whilst in truth the focus should be on Beth and how she deals with the situation of her friend and her husband it becomes lost in the strong cliches. Despite this one thing is for sure and you will detest the character of David by the time it is over and as such Paul Rhys does deliver a very strong performance as a loathsome man.

What this all boils down to is that The Innocent" doesn't really do anything you won't have seen in any other drama about rape but it does so over 180 minutes which causes it to drag. But the out of balance second half unfortunately makes it come across as even more cliche than ever.