Review by Sean Boelman
The story of filmmaker Kevin Smith is an inspirational one for any young person who hopes to find their way into the film industry. And while Smith has always been very vocal about sharing his experiences, Malcolm Ingram’s documentary Clerk brings it to the screen in a compassionate and encouraging way.
The documentary explores in depth the life and career of Kevin Smith, from his beginnings as a young cinephile making a movie with his friends in New Jersey to becoming the face of a generation of American independent filmmakers. Both a biography and a behind-the-scenes look at Smith’s films, this is truly the ultimate watch for fans of the subject.
Smith has gained quite the cult following over the years, through both his filmography and his podcasting (or SModcasting) endeavors, and so Ingram’s focus is understandably on appealing to that group. Although this does lead the documentary to feel like surface-level adulation at times, those who already admire him won’t think twice about showering more praise on him.
Ingram interviews Smith himself, in addition to many of the actors with whom the filmmaker has worked over the years, and the result is a pretty good portrait of who he is as a person. Since so much is already known about his movies, the documentary is at its most interesting when it gives this insight on a personal level.
Those who are familiar with Smith’s life story will know some of the challenges he has experienced over the course of his life, including a recent heart attack, but others will almost certainly be inspired by his experiences to seize the day and make the most out of what they are given.
At over an hour and fifty minutes, this is certainly pretty lengthy for a documentary, but Ingram has such an abundance of material to cover that it will never lose the audience’s interest. Ingram moves nicely through the making of Smith’s films, with anecdotes from his personal life to tie it together.
The documentary is also very impressive on a technical level. The editing here makes this feel more like a quirky independent narrative film than a documentary. There is a rhythm about it that will draw viewers into the story. The music by Martin Rae is also wonderful, complementing the tone quite well.
Clerk is a great documentary for fans of Kevin Smith. Even if one already knows much of the information it contains, it’s a nostalgic reminder of why his work and public persona are so beloved by his passionate following.
Clerk is screening as a part of the online edition of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 16-20.