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  Clementine Forbidden Fruit
Year: 2019
Director: Lara Gallagher
Stars: Otmara Marrero, Sydney Sweeney, Sonya Walger, Will Brittain, Samuel Summer, Will Cuddy
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Karen (Otmara Marrero) has hit a bad patch recently, with the breakup of her relationship with her older, richer girlfriend, D. (Sonya Walger), which had not happened at her instigation. Indeed, she is very reluctant to let go, and when she finds out that D. has not only changed the locks on their (read: her) house but is also keeping their beloved dog Ramsay, Karen decides drastic action is needed, though she is not one hundred percent sure what. On impulse, she gets in her car and drives out into the wilds of Oregon, but with a destination in mind, the lakeside house where she enjoyed many happy retreats alongside her ex. Breaking in, she sits stewing in her misery, pondering her next move - but she is not alone out there.

This sounds like the start of a thriller, in fact it sounds like the start of a nineteen-nineties erotic thriller where Shannon Tweed would reign supreme, but the writer and director here, Lara Gallagher (credited as Lara Jean Gallagher), making her feature debut after a selection of shorts, music videos and commercials, was reluctant to go too far into the realm of cliché. Nevertheless, there appeared to be one major influence that was proving quite the touchstone for two-handers designed for actresses (see also Alex Ross Perry's Queen of Earth, for instance), and that was Ingmar Bergman's Persona. Back in the sixties, it was a choice between that and Roman Polanski's Repulsion over which was the most unforgiving examination of the errant female psyche.

Yet Gallagher, seemingly aware she could have easily had her characters descend into utter, self-destructive madness as so many before them had, was not completely on board with that idea, and went off in a different direction. Only not completely different, as Karen still had her long, dark nights of the soul to endure and we can tell that even by the conclusion she had a lot of reckoning to go through before she was able to move past his incident in her life (or set of incidents), though that was largely down to the director's handling of suspense. All the way through we are led to believe that there is more going on than we or possibly Karen has been told, and our suspicions are raised since we have seen scenarios like this before. However, while we are teased a grand finale, what we got was diminished by those expectations born of previous experience the actual film perversely veered away from, instead piling the anguish onto its lead character.

She is left either thinking she had a lucky escape or an unlucky encounter, maybe both, though to say more would be to expose what meagre surprises Clementine held (one of them being it was titled after the fruit rather than a woman's name). The premise is that once Karen has established herself in the lake house with no idea of what to do next, a distraction arrives in the shape of a mystery lady she had no idea was around the vicinity, one Lana (Sydney Sweeney) who says she's a nineteen-year-old aspiring actress. There's a bit of Persona-style role-playing (even a monologue) and exposure of the limits we go to present a version of ourselves to the world, be that based in our self-worth or our hopes for receiving esteem from somebody else, but by and large we trundled along as Karen and Lana felt each other out psychologically and we started to brace ourselves for the worst. Don't get me wrong, what does happen isn't great for Karen, but it's mainly embarrassing, and it's the business with D. that she really needs to get over. It's that anticipation of a thriller, erotic or otherwise, that may lead to disappointment. Music by Katy Jarzebowski.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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