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Glen Erskine: A family man and the director and chief of staff of New Horizons, a group home and counseling center for abused boys. Glen is a child psychologist with impeccable credentials who has an international reputation as one of the foremost scholars in the study of male adolescent sexuality. Tommy Jackson: A victim of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse since he was an infant, Tommy is taken into custody by the Department of Social Services and placed at New Horizons after his mother is arrested by the FBI for making pornographic videos of him and selling them on the Internet. At New Horizons, Tommy's young life finally seems to be coming together. But when the nature of the love he shares with one of his counselors is discovered and their relationship is destroyed, Tommy strikes back by accusing the man he believes responsible - Glen Erskine. With that accusation, the stage is set for a dark, disturbing, and yet poignant tale of love, commitment, betrayal, forgiveness, and ... Written by
Gary M. Frazier
Return to Innocence is a very interesting movie in terms of its subject. It deals with relationships between boys and male adults and their effects. The movie is based on Gary M. Frazier's novel. The author himself does the screenplay and thus participates in the making of this LifeLine Entertainment Picture. The movie is directed and produced by Rocky Costanzo, Black&White and endowed with a gripping score by Orren Merton.
It is the story of Glen Erskine (a solid Richard Meese), director and chief of staff of New Horizons, a group home and counseling center for abused boys, and the relationship to one of his boys, 13-year-old Tommy Jackson (Andrew Martin). Now Glen Erskine is the leading personality in the field of child therapy and a first-rate scholar of male sexuality, having dealt with the phenomenon of pederasty and intergenerational relationships in various books and articles. When Glen finds out that one of his counselors has had a sexual encounter with Tommy Jackson, he confronts him with the consequences, which ultimately leads to an accident and the death of this counselor. Now Tommy Jackson strikes back by accusing the man he believes responsible. With that accusation of child molestation, the stage is set for a gloomy, disturbing, yet still emotionally stirring and poignant tale of love and sacrifice, redemption and forgiveness. Thus this movie becomes a thrilling court room drama and provides a riveting inside look at the processes and agendas involved in the handling of a child sex abuse case.
Rocky Costanzo has approached a subject that many ordinary citizens would preferably sweep under the carpet. The story of Glen Erskine is indeed very controversial as is the man and some of his attitudes. What I find particularly striking about this production is the fact that Glen Erskine appears to be a man of strong character and principles. He believes in what he his doing, he shows fierce commitment and unwavering sacrifice. In fact, as we find out in the movie, he has never had sexual contact with any of the boys under his custody. His entire life turns upside down as he has to defend himself in the courtroom. He has to defend his honor, but also his entire personal background of caring about boys and working for them with unselfish passion. In the course of the trial before the grand jury, we get an idea of Glen's work, his values and his character. He has committed himself to a cause that leads a morally biased public to question his righteousness, which makes you think about the controversy of men who devote their lives to help young boys. Thus this movie is a pervasive tale of the most human of all emotions: love.
To make this very clear, the movie does not answer the most urgent question it evokes: Is a sexual relationship between an adult and a boy always considered molestation and abuse, leading to negative effects on the boy's mind? Or can it under certain premises if not be appreciated at least get rid of its sinister reputation? Or in other words: Is there really no difference between sexual predators and boy-lovers? This is the main essence of the story. The answer is not given; it is left to the audience to make up their minds, if they are open-minded enough to even consider reflecting about this issue.
Having seen this movie, my thoughts circled around this issue for a while, and I started doing some research on the Internet. I am too young, too inexperienced and lacking the scientific knowledge to assess any of the heavy moral questions addressed. However, I quickly found many information about the movie, the novel and the issues brought up in there. The devotion and passion Glen Erskine embodies is something I could never live up to, but I can easily identify with his intentions. He loves his boys, and his boys love him. I have found some articles that differentiate between so-called 'boy-lovers' and pederasts. The latter are primarily interested in getting sexually stimulated by boys, while the former just care about the boys and would never do anything that hurts them. I was not aware of this distinction before, but having seen this movie and reflected about the issue, it makes some sense to me. So the question is, should every male adult strictly refuse any sort of sexual touch, even if there is no threat, violence or whatever, but just mutual love? Having said this, Glen Erskine is not even a member of this category, for he has never done anything like that. There are scientific articles that claim that boys are not necessarily harmed, even if there is some sort of sexual relationship; something hard to digest for dour conservatives.
I just meant to point out the moral aspects addressed by the movie, issues that are shunned by the public and rather ignored than discussed which ultimately leads to branding everyone who spends too much time with boys, even if there is no evidence of child abuse. Rapists and men who care about boys must not be put into the same category. I cannot see anything sinister in the kind of devotion Glen Erskine shows towards his boys; on the contrary, this movie made me glad that there are men who overcome our morally biased public and give boys the kind of love they need.
However, this movie has done a great job in bringing these issues to the fore. I give it a 8, basically due to the theme. The movie itself has some weaknesses. While the score was wonderful and the Black&White did strengthen the visuals in a stunning manner, the acting was somehow shallow and not as convincing as I would have liked it to be. The actors were awkward occasionally and not really capable of giving their characters the emotional depth and authenticity that this subject would have required.
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