In the directorial debut from Lara Jean Gallagher, the new film “Clementine,” premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Starring Otmara Marrero and Sydney Sweeney, the story explores heartbreak, sexuality, and youth through a unique lens that might leave audience members examining how their own experiences have shaped them.
The story follows Karen, a mysterious girl who we meet as she’s on her way to break into a her ex-girlfriend’s lake house. The only real context we have for her is that she was once involved with a significantly older woman and that she’s most likely not doing too well from the fallout. It’s not long after that we’re introduced to our other lead, Lana, a younger neighbor who is persistently interested in Karen.
The innocence of youth and how relationships can affect it plays as a major theme in the film, albeit not in a manner that’s too heavy-handed. While Lana seems to be in a hurry to grow up, Karen is more reminiscent of the naivete she’s presumably lost through recent experience, and most of this is communicated in silence. The film is not heavy on actual dialogue but instead uses silent cues that rely a lot on its leads, Marrero and Sweeney. Both did a particularly stellar job of making the uncomfortable moments tense and the endearing moments all the more sensitive.
The story requires a bit of patience, with a slowly building first and second act that leads into a hectic finale. It’s slower pacing, for the most part, seems to fit comfortably with its lakeside setting, however, and the way the characters live their lives there. Gallagher uses the setting of this film to her full advantage in the storytelling, and the lake house feels like a 3rd main character by the end. Both the lake and the home itself are either romantic or unsettling when Gallagher chooses them to be, and the environment translates beautifully on camera.
Clementine is not necessarily a love story, but rather a coming of age told from 2 different periods of growth in life. It’s stunning scenery and solid performance enhance it, but its subtlety in communicating the pain of growing up set it apart. So often coming of age stories are handled in cliche packages, and Clementine offers a relief from the genre’s tropes to provide a more complicated exploration that should leave audiences thinking