"Eric is a rather "Innocent" (2005) and shy teen from Hong Kong, whose family immigrates to Toronto primarily for financial reasons, but also because they didn't like his friends back home. Eric tries to adapt to the new Canadian culture, and the very different approach to education, all while dealing with his homosexual crushes on his hunky cousin, a classmate, a band member, and eventually an illegal immigrant who is working at his family's restaurant. He also meets a much older man, with whom he carries on an ongoing affair, but the man's former boyfriend returns and Eric bows out. All this happens while his family life is far from stable, with his father and mother eventually separating, after having kept Eric and his sister in the dark about what was going on. The deception he experiences at home becomes his role model to be deceptive about his true feelings among others, distancing him from his family, and setting him up for disappointment and hurt. The overall message is essentially "When you're different than most people, life s*cks sometime, but you have to try your best to be happy", and the prevailing tone is hopeful rather than depressing.
Writer/Director Simon Chung tells a realistic, beautifully-photographed and engrossing story about a family in turmoil, which he admits is partially autobiographical. In the role of Eric, young Timothy Lee is freshly sincere and shows a commendable range of emotions during the film. Some nudity, rather tame simulated sex scenes, would likely have been rated R if submitted. DVD extras include two earlier gay-themed shorts by Chung, commentary by him and his young star, photo gallery and trailers."
A Sensitive Examination of Displaced People and the Conseque
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Writer/director Simon Chung, in his first major motion picture, shows evidence of a solid talent and promise that there are many fine films lurking about in his head. He has produced a story that is pertinent on many levels, addressing the questions of family bonding after transplantaion to another country, sexual coming of age of a young lad without support systems, miscegenation of cultures at polar opposites, and how to cope in a strange land without adequate mental preparation.
Eric (Timothy Lee - a very promising, subtle young actor) and his sister, mother and father move from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada to seek the wealth of their dream. Eric was in with the wrong crowd in Hong Kong and doesn't want to move to Canada, but his parents force the move to aid his education AND to find some success in business that eluded them in Hong Kong. The family moves in with relatives (Eric's very hunky cousin becomes the object of his sexual fantasies despite the fact that the cousin has a girlfriend) and slowly the family works into the atmosphere of Toronto. But Eric's parents show signs of breakup, a fact that actually occurs. Eric finds an older man who supplies his needs sexually and emotionally, but the man has a lover who returns form the Philippines to destroy the possibility of permanence. The mother opens a restaurant forcing Eric to work there, the only positive aspect of the job being Eric's friendship/potential love with one of the busboys who he decides to help make the crossing into New York. On a very brave venture Eric succeeds in getting his current amour into the city only to be deserted by him. The film slows and stops without resolution of Eric's needs.
And it is this ending that makes the impression. Life, Chung seems to be saying, is not a progressive series of culminating events, but is rather a potpourri of isolated incidents from which we learn and move on. The cast is uniformly fine, but the standouts are Eric's very handsome cousin who appears to have a solid career ahead of him, and Timothy Lee who brings compassion and very subtle acting to a difficult role. He is another actor to watch. Though being marketed as a gay film (and indeed it does deal with gay issues), the audience should be much larger, especially as we are constantly dealing with immigration issues today: this is another look and stance for a large problem and one about which we understand too little. Grady Harp, October 06
An exploration of burgeoning sexuality
Richard Harrold | Chicago, IL | 01/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eric is a teen from Hong Kong who finds himself in Toronto after he and his sister are tricked by their irresponsible parents into thinking it's just for a holiday. Eric's parents are superficial and lack affection for each other, let alone their children. So to compensate for being thrown into a new culture, which has fewer constraints than in Asia, Eric embarks on an emotional journey to search for a boyfriend as he explores his newly-discovered sexuality. But each attempt to find love turns out to be worse than the one before.
This is somewhat of a surprisingly short movie. Because of that, some of the transitions in character are made inexplicably. When we first meet Eric, he is with a friend in Hong Kong who literally reaches out to touch him in an awkward display of affection. So the viewer is led to believe that Eric is just beginning to discover he is gay. Yet, when Eric arrives in Toronto, he quickly begins acting as though he been through the circuit before. In the movie's first portrayal of him going to a gay bookstore, he cruises an older man with such smoothness, it's hard to believe that it's supposed to be his first time. And there's no awkwardness when the two of them get to the bedroom; Eric is an animal. So it's these types of portrayals that appear abruptly in the movie without clear development. How does Eric find out about the cruise park he goes to?
The movie's theme seems to be one director Simon Chung has explored previously in short films he's made; a gay youth who has internalized his sexuality finds its expression can no longer be controlled after an emotionally traumatic event occurs (Eric going to Toronto against his will in this film, and a mixed race boy in Hong Kong learning he must go to England to boarding school during a short film included on the "Innocent" DVD). The endings are abrupt and ambiguous, as though Chung seems to be saying, "There it is." The characters come to realize and accept their situations, but unlike with other film makers, Chung won't make this realization neat and tidy. Rather, it reflects reality in that we all will get to where we are going; it's just that most of us don't get to travel first class."
Life and Gay Love
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 04/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
Life and Gay Love
Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride
New from Picture This Entertainment is a very good film, "Innocent". It is sensitive and romantic as it deals with a young man who deals with life and his realization that he as found gay love. Eric Tang is seventeen years old and h and his family has moved from Hong Kong to Canada. It is not easy for the family. They face the daily struggle of finances and adapting to a new cultural environment. Eric falls very quickly for his cousin--a very good looking hockey player. But he also is enamored by a middle aged lawyer and a classmate James, as well. It seems that these love feelings that he has is a wake up call about his sexuality. The guys he loves do not seem to love him back. When the family's restaurant and the family ties start to be unsuccessful, Eric finds a friend with an illegal immigrant and what happens afterwards can only lead to unforeseen consequences. The film is nothing more than a study of desire but do not misunderstand the meaning of the word to be negative. Youthful desire is beautifully explored in "Innocent". Timothy Lee as Eric is perfect. He is able to balance vulnerability and his own non-innocent feelings. This is not a big movie but t packs a large wallop. "
LIFE AS IT IS
GEORGE RANNIE | DENVER, COLORADO United States | 10/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The film "Innocent" is a very entertaining story about a family consisting, of a mom, dad, son and daughter moving to Canada from Hong Kong. The late-teen son, Eric as played very believably and so well by Timothy Lee is the typical teen--bored with his family and really wanting to be free of all family constraints, etc. Eric isn't really different from most teens with one big exception, he is gay and, of course, that adds more complications to his life.
What writer/director Simon Chung, in his first major motion picture, gives us is a glance at life as it sometimes can be for an immigrant that has some added difficulties to deal with-- being a gay teen with parents that are on the verge of divorce.
This film is very enjoyable to watch especially as an adult. (If I were a teen I do feel that I would be a little uncomfortable because it does "hit close to home") The character Eric, with his innocence, experiences things in his life that I can certainly relate to--he falls in love with a very closeted class mate and suffers the very nasty ramifications, he has a serious crush on a hunk with no hope of the affection being returned, he gets involved with an older attached man, plus he tries to do a good deed for an appealing coworker and ends up just being taken advantage of by that person. I'm sure that we all in one way or other have experienced the aforesaid.
The film "Innocent" gives no solutions to the "life learning" experiences of Eric. One is only allowed to see him go trough these experiences knowing that it is how life is for a late teen that happens to be gay. With Eric's personality as played wonderfully by Timothy Lee, one does get the feeling that he'll be o.k.
I enjoyed this low budgeted film as you will if you buy it because it is filled with some very good acting and it is also directed very well plus it does tell a most interesting story about a teen on the brink of his manhood.
(Be advised that this movie is basically bilingual; there are parts in Chinese with, of course, subtitles, and parts in English.) "