A modest and restrained film, Lara Gallagher's Clementine explores attraction, friendship and autonomy. When Karen (Otmara Marrero) breaks into her ex-girlfriend D.'s (Sonya Walger) Pacific West empty, lakeside summer home, there's a sense of empowerment of, perhaps, desperate ownership over a broken love. She basks in the tranquil isolation of the roomy home, sketches art, listens to a record (the well-chosen, haunting alt-country track "Antonia Jane" by Lightning Dust features). The calmness is soon interrupted by the presence of Lana (Sydney Sweeney), a dreamy-eyed young woman from across the lake, who Karen is both drawn and resistant to. There's a dilly-dally immaturity and a feeling of untrustworthiness from Lana that Karen can't quite grasp or stomach. Yet, because Karen has recently ended a relationship with a woman older than her, maybe she is experiencing self-reflective empathy.
Filmed in Oregon, the movie is pretty to look at, with velvety photography by Andres Karu. The house is a cozy place to luxuriate in. The film is unhurried in its exploration of this budding friendship, with spare dialogue. The sparseness of talking is a bit of a burden for both Marrero and Sweeney (who has had many significant roles since this project) who show promise but have to express much through reactions. The story swerves when groundskeeper Beau (Will Brittain) shows, the ironic figure of maintenance who mangles Karen's fragile web. A plot aside showing Lana in danger is a shaky, dramatic burst that doesn't quite balance out within the film. Overall, Clementine reminds me of a taut short story, with symbolic inferences (including the title) and a lot of internal action. Maybe purposefully, it's sort of a breath of fresh air when a stony-eyed Walger briefly enters the picture, grounding the flyways of this portrait of youth momentarily. The film is bolstered by a strong ending that cements dissonant feelings from regret and authority. **1/2