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Clementine (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 7, 2020


Starring Otmara Marrero, Sydney Sweeney, Will Brittain, Sonya Walger, Chase Offerle, Samuel Summer, Alissa Jessup, Lilian McNeil, Laura Faye Smith, Gregory Brady, Sean Sisson, Camille Carpenter, Clinton Evans, Christopher Tallmadge, Will Cuddy, Deborah Rightler, Ramsey and Meeko.

Screenplay by Lara Jean Gallagher.

Directed by Lara Jean Gallagher.

Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories. 90 minutes. Not Rated.

Nothing is what you think it will be in Clementine, and that is what makes it so fascinating.

Even just looking at the trailer or the press photos for the film, your expectations are totally subverted. The movie is not about a moody lesbian fling in a rustic lake vacation community. It is not overly sexual at all – though sexuality is touched upon. Nor is it romantic – in fact, it is arguably on the other end of the spectrum.

Clementine digs much deeper into its relationships than that. In fact, for the most part those expectations are just baggage that we bring with us to the film. Clementine is not about the beginning of relationships; it is about the endings of them. It is not about discovering someone else; it is about the masks we put up for others.

It is realistic.

Even the movie’s title is a bit of a misrepresentation. Clementine isn’t a place or character name; it is a piece of fruit one of the women is eating in one scene. While that piece of fruit turns out to be rather symbolic, it does not play a huge role in the story at large.

In the press kit, first time writer/director Lara Jean Gallagher – who based her screenplay loosely on a past breakup – says that Clementine is “a simple drama of looking and being looked at.” And in the larger picture that is exactly what it is about – the misconceptions we get from watching people from afar, and how those ideas are usually completely wrong when we get a closer look.

This very insular drama – though there are people floating around their orbit, this is basically the story of two characters – is both isolating and in some ways starkly intimate.

We meet Karen (Otmara Marrero) at a low point in her life. She is an aspiring artist who has been in a happy relationship with an older, more established artist mysteriously simply named D (played by Sonya Walger). Suddenly, with no warning, D breaks up with her, throws her out of the house and even keeps Karen’s dog.

Distraught and with no place to go, Karen breaks into D’s vacation lake house where she can heal and decide what comes next. D knows she is there but decides to give her a little space and let her stay there for a bit – which also lets her exert more control over Karen from afar. D makes her presence known even when she is mostly out of the picture, periodically making brief texts and calls and even sending a handyman (Will Brittain) to keep an eye on her.

It is while she is holed up in the lake house, trying to come to terms with the heartbreak, that Karen meets Lana (Sydney Sweeney), a local girl who likes to sunbathe at a nearby isolated pier. Lana seems to have everything together in her life, but as Karen gets to know her, she realizes that Lana is trying to seem more worldly and sexual than she really is.

They become friends, with Karen enjoying being the older, more-in-control member of a relationship for a change. As they stumble haltingly into the possibility of something more romantic – something that neither one is ready for, each for their own reasons – deceptions and neuroses and life stand in the way, eventually leading to a blow up.

Clementine is a smart, intimate drama about the masks that we all wear, and about how life can be surprising, devastating, comforting, exciting, unexpected, and strangely beautiful if we just open ourselves up to it – even the hard parts.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2020.

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