‘Clementine’ (2020) reviewed

❉ A taut, atmospheric drama starring Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale) & Otmara Marrero (Miss Arizona).

Shot beautifully in Oregon on the US Pacific Northwest, Clementine is the debut feature film from promising new writer and director Lara Jean Gallagher. Karen (played by Otmara Marrero) is a young woman in her late twenties who has recently broken up with older woman D (played by Sonya Walger). Reeling from the end of the relationship Karen breaks into D’s secluded and empty lake house in Oregon to live there alone. Here she meets teenager Lana (played by Sydney Sweeney –Euphoria, The Handmaids Tale) and their relationship ebbs and flows during the course of the film.

Throughout the film there is a tension in the dynamics between the younger Lana and the older woman Karen. Lana has a seemingly innocent infatuation with Karen, but Karen is paranoid about her new environment and is untrusting after the breakup. From Karen’s point of view the film also gives you the feeling of moving into a place where you may have had happy memories previously but where you are not really at home and don’t really feel at ease (according to the director the actress Otmara Marrero was a city dweller in Miami in real life and didn’t enjoy the countryside herself!).

With phone calls from D (who only actually appears on screen for a couple of   brief moments in the film) adding to the paranoia there are also doubts whether Karen is being manipulated and watched by her ex. The current relationship with Lana is also extremely complex and there is the hint that Karen’s relationship with Lana may also mirror the one that D had with Karen herself.

The film also has thriller elements. Early on Karen finds a gun in a drawer (loaded or not?) and can she trust handyman Beau (Will Brittain) who appears to be checking up on her and also seemingly has some kind of relationship with Lana?  We wonder what the backstory and motivation to all these characters is and learn more about Lana’s real background during the climactic end scenes.

The film is beautifully shot around the Oregon lake side and there is an evocative score by Katy Jarzebowski. The film also includes a memorable scene relating to the song Antonia Jane by Canadian indie band Lightening Dust. From the voice over from D at the beginning to stunning monologue from Lana towards the end the film explores themes of deception, bad relationships. coming of age and duality. An impressive feature debut.

Clementine is released on digital Monday 8th February 2021 in the UK from Bohemia Media.

❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre

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