Clementine (United States, 2019)

May 05, 2020
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Clementine Poster

The movie starts out with a degree of promise. A young woman, suffering through the aftermath of a traumatic breakup, travels to her former lover’s lake house, breaks in, and sets up home. Everything about it – the cinematography, the pace, the score, and numerous directorial choices – hint at the strong beginning of an erotic thriller. There’s a tiny problem, though: Clementine is neither erotic nor a thriller. Instead, it purports to be a character piece about the friendship that develops between the lead character and a younger girl. The way in which it is presented by first-time feature director Lara Jean Gallagher is slow, awkward, and pretentious. The movie could have benefitted from some heat but, for whatever reason (perhaps afraid of the movie being tagged as exploitative) Gallagher doesn’t go there. (She might have benefitted from studying how the French do this sort of thing.)

Otmara Marrero plays Karen, whose relationship with an older, wealthy woman named only as “D” (Sonya Walger) ends badly. The specifics aren’t revealed and aren’t germane to the story but, when we first meet Karen (following a brief prologue), she has been locked out of the home she shared with her lover (and denied access to her dog). She seeks refuge at D’s Pacific Northwest lake house, where she acts as if she belongs. She isn’t the only trespasser on the property, however. Lana (Sydney Sweeney) is staying at a house across the lake and uses D’s dock for sunning and swimming. The two connect but the awkwardness in their friendship is fueled in part by Karen’s attraction to the younger girl and Lana’s bi-curiosity. The evolving relationship takes a turn, however, when unsurprising (and somewhat clichéd) secrets are revealed. Meanwhile, D remains in the background, making subtly threatening phone calls and employing a handyman (Will Brittain) to keep an eye on the intruder.