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'Clementine' Review: A Sweet Indie Offering Of Forbidden Fruit

Reeling from a one-sided breakup, anguished Karen (Otmara Marrero) flees Los Angeles for her ex’s idyllic lake house in the Pacific Northwest.

There, she becomes entangled with a mysterious, alluring younger woman (Sydney Sweeney), whom she cannot seem to resist.

Equal parts psychological thriller and sexual coming-of-age story, CLEMENTINE is a tense rumination on who to love and how to let go.

That’s the official synopsis of Clementine, written and directed by Lara Jean Gallagher.

The press release states that the movie is coming to Virtual Cinemas everywhere on Friday, May 8th.

Welcome again to the new world created by COVID-19 which has touched virtually every facet of life as we knew it just weeks ago; even a simple thing like going to the theater to catch a movie and eat some popcorn with friends.

While that’s all changed, filmmakers will struggle to somehow still make movies and find a way to distribute and exhibit the ones they have completed.

For the time being, it’s a chaotic world, but you hope that movies like Clementine can find a way to find an audience.

In the context of all that, I’ve been screening and reviewing independent movies as of late. And I’ve been commenting that these movies would all probably have benefited if they had a bigger budget.

It’s a sad reality. But in the world of indies who do what you can with what you have and hope that the audience will be politely forgiving and go along for the ride.

Clementine is the exception.

It strikes you as a movie that probably accomplished everything it set out to do.

You can start with perfect casting and spot-on, standout performances from Otmara Marrreo and Sydney Sweeney, who portray the two main characters.

They bring a relaxed, natural sensibility to this story that is unforced and never overplayed.

Their relationship unfolds slowly and believably as we discover more about them and the interconnectedness and entanglement of their lives.

This is a story in which characters are occasionally tapping the proverbial breaks and reminding each other to be cautious since you may not really know someone else’s motivations or what you’re getting into.

In the case of the characters Karen and Lana, it is a dangerous liaison between a young woman and a much younger woman who is still in her teens.

You can feel the erotic suspense slowly build as flirtatiousness and stolen glances edge them closer and closer toward forbidden physical involvement.

I was impressed with the direction of Clementine.

Lara Jean Gallagher earned her Directing MFA from Columbia University.

The Independent Filmmaker Project named her an Emerging Storyteller in 2015. From what I can tell, it was a well-deserved accolade.

She demonstrates real maturity and a command of her craft in Clementine, weaving a visual narrative with just the right balance of energy and restraint.

Her camera has an eye for detail—the little details like the cracks in the walls that become metaphoric and meaningful.

There is a lot of rich detail on screen. It’s the kind of low-key, confident, self-assured storytelling that you often see in foreign movies from seasoned directors.

Yes, the movie is about two women dancing around a fateful attraction to each other.

Actually, it’s about the romantic interconnection of three woman, but I don’t want to give away details of the story.

What’s impressive here is the subtlety of this romance.

There is an undercurrent of undeniable passion, but also sensitivity and care in the way the story is told.

As mentioned, the performances of Otmara Marrero and Sydney Sweeney are first rate.

They invest their characters with depth and nuance, creating a deepening and unfolding relationship that is mesmerizing and suspenseful.

On a technical level, I want to mention the really fine lighting and cinematography.

Clementine looks beautifully natural and real, shot for shot.

There is real artistry and consistency.

I want to reinforce the point that shooting what might be considered “ordinary” everyday scenes is a creative challenge.

Sometimes, Hollywood movies fail to get it right, either under-lighting or more often over-lighting scenes with the effect of adding a layer of slickness and gloss.

Making ordinary, everyday scenes looking convincing and real is difficult, using just the right amount of artificial and reflected light to make the shots look untampered and untweaked.

The editing moves the audience along at just the right pace in an unhurried flow. The music is, well, note perfect throughout.

Overall, technically, Clementine is an impressive movie, one that any young director should be proud to have on her resume.

Everyone involved should be proud of what they have done here.

Collectively, they have proven that low-budget, independent films can deliver impressive results when you make all the right choices and carefully control every aspect of the production.

It starts with the writing and development of a simplified story that can brought to the screen very successfully with a modest budget.

It’s not an easy thing to do.

While audiences might have issues with the content of the story, due to the controversial nature of the subject matter, or might be a little disappointed in some arguably underdeveloped aspects of the characters and relationships, Clementine is still a movie to watch.

There is a lot to enjoy.

It’s a showcase of some young, promising talent. In front of the camera. And behind it.

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