Review by Sean Boelman
Lara Gallagher’s feature debut Clementine is the type of movie that sounds a lot more interesting on paper than it is in execution. Although there is some interesting character work on display here, there isn’t a strong enough balance between the mystery and melodrama elements for the story to be particularly interesting.
The film follows a heartbroken woman who breaks into her ex’s lake house hoping to recover from their recent break-up, only to meet a mysterious young woman who complicates her emotions even further. Unfortunately, this story is disappointingly dull, an erotic thriller with little in the way of eroticism or thrills.
At just an hour and a half long, one would think there wouldn’t be much time in the movie to be wasted, but the first half still feels dreadfully stagnant. A majority of the conflict and development comes towards the end of the film, and while that later portion is moderately compelling, it takes far too long to get to this meat of the story.
Another problem with the movie is that it doesn’t explore its themes in a way that is particularly original. There are some messages about control to be found, but this is a common thread for the genre. Gallagher simply doesn’t approach her ideas with enough personality to justify an uninspired narrative.
The character development is certainly the strongest element of the film, especially in relation to the protagonist. Her arc is sympathetic and certainly the most unique part of the movie. Sadly the supporting characters are not as interesting as the protagonist, even the co-lead, who eventually turns into a conventional femme fatale of sorts.
Otmara Marrero and Sydney Sweeney do a good enough job in their roles, but the script doesn’t give them a whole lot of material to work with. Marrero shows a great deal of potential to be an excellent leading lady if she is given a better vehicle in which to star. She really shines in the more subtle moments in the film.
On a technical level, Gallagher clearly has a strong vision, and it allows the movie to be a lot more atmospheric. There’s a very moody and dreamlike look to the film, leaning into the lushly vegetative backgrounds provided in the scenery. The use of color in the movie is also quite strong, especially the use of green as a motif.
There are some very interesting things happening in Clementine, but Lara Gallagher’s script isn’t refined enough. Even though audiences may connect with the film’s uniquely-written protagonist, the movie otherwise isn’t very dynamic.
Clementine streams in partnership with indie theaters beginning May 8. A list of participating locations can be found here.