Innocent Voices review

A child’s eye view of the ’80s civil war in El Salvador, based on the personal experiences of screenwriter Oscar Orlando Torres. Eleven-year-old schoolboy Chava (Carlos Padilla) is the “man of his house in his family”, helping his seamstress mother (Leoner Varela) look after his younger siblings after Dad’s sudden departure for the US. Their village, however, is the location of fierce gun-battles between government forces and left-wing rebels.

Mexican director Luis Mandoki can’t resist diluting a wrenching story with off-puttingly sentimental touches: Chava getting to fall in love with a pretty classmate and dancing down the street to ‘I Will Survive’. Visually overwrought, Innocent Voices offers no real contextual analysis of the conflict, instead falling back on the platitudes that war is hell and that brave individuals can miraculously triumph over adversity.

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