Clementine marks the feature film directorial debut for Lara Jean Gallagher.
It’s a contemporary love story about a breakup. A young woman, in the midst of a breakup with her older lover breaks into the woman’s lake house to spend some time alone and sort things out.
While there, she encounters an enigmatic, flirtatious teenage girl and a mutual attraction begins to develop.
It’s a provocative tale with an erotic undercurrent.
It features "female relationships that aren't seen on screen that much," Gallagher told me in a recent interview.
Clementine is also a well-crafted low budget indie film that showcases the talents of a promising young filmmaker. It’s a textbook example of what can be done even when you’re working with limited funding.
"I knew that if I kept it small and really about strong female performances and really about this relationship growing between these two women...and limited locations that I would be able to do it no matter what, no matter what budget we were able to raise for it," Gallagher said.
The plot is character-driven, largely focusing on the relationship of the two main characters, Karen, the troubled young woman experiencing the breakup, played by Otmara Marrero) and Lana, the teen who becomes the object of Karen’s desire, played by Sydney Sweeney).
Their on-screen chemistry is the solid backbone of the movie.
"They were both wonderful," according to Gallagher.
Their performance and the overall low-key tone of the film in terms of photography, lighting and editing all work together seamlessly, creating a sense of delicate naturalism and realism.
"I'm really drawn to naturalistic visuals," Gallagher pointed out. And, as a director "I'm definitely driven by performances."
It feels as though we’re eavesdropping on real moments from real lives, unfolding in front of our eyes in real time.
The seeming “ordinariness” of the images and scenes make us feel less like movie viewers and more like voyeurs, witnessing something somehow just captured as opposed to being staged.
Something unfiltered rather than controlled or contrived.
Gallagher has a great eye for detail and a self-assuredness of framing and shot selection that are reminiscent of foreign films.
Clementine is not your typical play-it-safe, by-the-numbers movie that we are sometimes accustomed to seeing from a first time feature director. It has a style of its own.
There is a lot of attention to all the production details including the music track that beautifully supports the emotional arc of the story throughout.
From my perspective, Clementine is remarkably good debut film from a writer/director who demonstrates some real blossoming talent.
It shows what can be done with limited resources when careful planning and genuine passion for the material are factored in. It’s a movie that everyone involved, in front of the camera and behind it, should be proud of.
"I doesn't have to be something that costs a lot of money. To find a cast that believed in the story and felt the characters as much as I did, I know that we could do it within our means," Gallagher pointed out.
Lara Jean Gallagher grew up in DuBois, PA, "obsessed with TV. I sometimes feel like I was raised by television watching. I was a big reader too, but I think that the accessibility of TV was really impactful."
She received her undergraduate degree from Penn State University and her Directing MFA from Columbia University. Clementine premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
You can see Clementine on Virtual Cinema, including here in Pittsburgh through Row House Cinema.