Writer and director Lara Jean Gallagher spoke with poise and hope for a day down the line where films featuring LGBTQ+ characters, are no longer bound to a genre, but provide an exciting story, regardless of who the audience is with the premiere of her recent narrative feature, ‘Clementine’, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival just last week.
The eerily mysterious and dynamic Clementine tells the story of Karen (Otmara Marrero), who just got out of a long-term relationship, and decides to break into her ex’s scenic, vacation home by a lake.
Sulking, Karen stumbles onto Lana (Sydney Sweeney), whose charm intrigues Karen and acts like a much needed escape. The tension builds between the two and their timid flirtation builds throughout the film.
According to the film’s bio, “equal parts psychological drama and sexual coming-of-age story, Clementine is a rumination on who we choose to love and how to let go.”
Here’s what director-writer Lara Jean Gallagher had to say on the creation and hopeful future of Clementine.
The Knockturnal: Congratulations of the premiere of ‘Clementine’! You not only directed the film, but also wrote it. Can you take me through that process?
Lara Jean: Yeah! It was 3 years ago, almost exactly since I started the script. I really wanted to write something exploring the dynamic relationship between females. How two people can seem like friends, sisters, mother-daughter, and sexual all at the same time. Kind of how me going through a break-up and know that you would never treat someone the way that you were just treated, but it all becomes typical and we learn from where we were.
The Knockturnal: What’re you hoping that audiences take away most from the film?
Lara Jean: Ultimately, it’s a coming-of-age film. There’s not really any winners or losers in the film. It’s just about this deepening of who we are and who the characters are. I think that that’s a bitter-sweet kind of feeling of just growing up and moving on and hopefully being a better person from the experiences you had.
The Knockturnal: A lot of films that center around LGBTQ+ characters make the story of coming out, or place their sexuality as the heart of the film. That’s not the case with Clementine. What are you hoping for the future of narrative films that have an LGBTQ+ main character?
Lara Jean: Honestly, I hope that I’m making films in 50 years and I can say to a panel “I used to make films back when LGBTQ was a genre!” Because even to have that distinction for this film- yes it’s a part of it, but that doesn’t tell you what it’s about. I never wanted it to a surprise that there are lesbian characters, bi-sexual characters. It’s just the status quo. That was really important in the conceiving of it and that it’s just their lives. It’s going to be really interesting how audiences perceive that. Some people might get that immediately, and to some people, it might be totally at the end when it all clicks into place, and I think that it’s something I really wanted to play with and hopefully this is just the beginning of these kinds of relationships being more normalized and just a part of growing up and part of all our relationships and what makes you who you are.
The Knockturnal: The characters find themselves at a crossroads for making big life decisions. How have you found that in your own life?
Lara Jean: I was really inspired by one of my own break-ups, and I think being a writer and being an over-thinker kind of person, and thinking “what does it mean to date somebody older and more successful?” If you’re dating somebody that you’re ultimately wanting the career that they have, say they don’t treat you well, then how do you rationalize those? This is what I found myself thinking about and just how do I want to be? What’s the kind of person I want to be? What kind of artist do I want to be? How can I use what’s been traumatizing to me and try to make that universal, or make myself better in the process.
The Knockturnal: There is that generational divide, or at least different way of thinking, between the different characters. How do you think or hope that it is going to land with different audience members?
Lara Jean: I’m so curious to see, but I don’t know with the age difference. It’s such a subtle thing, but it’s a big deal. Being women, being an ambitious woman, and wanting to write characters that are ambitious, that do strive -both the Lana character and Karen, and obviously the Sonya character, they’re all passionate, career-driven people. I just think you’re always aware of how old you are and if you’ve achieved what you think you should at that point and looking forward. And looking back, and feeling both too young and too old all the same time. Not gay enough, not straight enough at the same time. I think that’s a universal thing. And just feeling like you don’t fit- I certainly feel like that a lot.
The Knockturnal: What advice do you have for people that are just now having to brace themselves to make those similar decisions or face similar struggles?
Lara Jean: I think it’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. I mean, everything today is about comparing yourself to other people, and you just got to dig in and keep working. That’s all you really can do. I’ll tell you now, just thinking to myself, in 2012 living in the city, going through that break-up and now being here and having made something of it, it feels like it was worth it.