Psychological Drama, 1h 30min
Log line: A heartbroken woman becomes entangled with a younger girl after breaking into her ex’s lake house in the Pacific Northwest. Equal parts psychological drama and sexual coming-of-age story, Clementine is a tense rumination on who to love and how to let go.
Like the Clementine fruit itself, it’s best peeled back and taken in slowly one segment at a time.
In Clementine, Writer/Director Lara Jean Gallagher takes us to a gorgeous isolated lake house location in which this intriguing debut feature film takes place. In this tranquil setting we are witness to the breakdown of a clearly heartbroken artist, Karen (Otmara Marrero), as she descends into a spiral of grief all whilst set against a backdrop of the intricacies of age, power and the complex nature of the sometimes all too thin line between truth and lies.
Aspiring artist Karen, who has just been rejected, drives herself to her ex D’s (Sonya Walger) impressively large modern and secluded lake house where she proceeds to break into the house. Surrounded by towering trees and a mill pond lake it seems an idyllic spot for Karen to get over her breakup and heal from the hurt she feels. It becomes apparent as the story progresses however that Karen’s intentions are not so healthy as we are witness to her intent to inhabit her ex’s house in an attempt to get possession of their shared dog and to cause disruption to her ex’s life in some achievable way.
Just as Karen settles in to her illicit holiday getaway a very young, mysterious and immature blonde Lana (Sydney Sweeney) appears with a tale about a lost dog to further distract Karen from concentrating on healing and getting her life together. The two strike up a quick and intense relationship even though unlikely given their evident difference in maturity. However, as juvenile and inconsequential as the character of Lana seems, it’s through her character that we can come to understand that Karen is struggling to deal with her own feelings of a lack of self-worth surrounding age and the power dynamics that can exist between women in a relationship who have an age difference.
There is a duality between Karen and her ex having a large age gap and the age gap that exists between Lana and herself. It is clear that they are both damaged in their own ways and experimenting with tangled confused feelings as they both search for growth and meaning in their lives. It is also clear that the age gap is an issue however it isn’t as clear as to what the film hopes to say to the audience about it. Although perhaps the point Gallagher wants to make is just that, to open the dialogue up about this topic and for the audience to decide for themselves what it means to them.
Filmed with sumptuous cinematography by the clearly talented Andres Karus and set to an eerily beautiful score of thrilleresque proportions by Katy Jarzebowski, Clementine intrigued me straight away. Combined with the enigmatically natural performance by Otmara Marrero, who does a remarkable job of having us mesmerised by her despair of, perhaps more than losing someone, the realisation that she has in fact lost herself to someone that isn’t deserving of the fact. The counterpart performance of Sweeney fell a bit flat for me. Dialogue, that should have been delivered with feeling, seemed to be delivered with a flat affect that had me feeling nothing for the character of Lana. Although it did instil in me a feeling of the relatively dismal banality faced by many teenagers in the suburbs of L.A. and the slight hint of danger that lurks beneath that innocent veneer of banality in their need to be someone or someone special to someone else at any cost.
Clementine is a captivating and quite gorgeous debut film and the music and cinematography made the film for me, but I found I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied and wanting more. The film had all the ingredients to be a very thought-provoking observation on the power play that sometimes exists with a substantial age difference in relationships but just lacked that extra bit of depth I wanted to see. However, the stunning scenery, languidly gorgeous shots and eerily beautiful moody score all draw you in and perhaps, like the Clementine fruit itself, its best peeled back and taken in slowly one segment at a time.
Digital release date is February 8th 2021.
This review was written by:
Reviewer and Writer
Alex has worked as a film stills photographer, written stories for a museum promotion campaign and has had her work featured on the cover of an Australian based lesbian magazine. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, focusing on film, writing and photography from Perth's Edith Cowan University.
She is currently working on a documentary project centred on lesbian refugee women’s experiences, combining her love of documentary film, photography and her current role as an occupational therapist. All in all, she is passionate about film, especially lesbian-made and themed films.