A secluded Pacific Northwest lake house in the woods becomes the lonely setting in “Clementine,” writer / director Lara Gallagher‘s first feature film about the complexities of female relationships and intimacy. The story is simple, but the emotional devastation of the main characters is anything but.
Karen (Otmara Marrero) is reeling from a painful breakup with an older, more successful woman. Dealing with this heartache the best she can, Karen flees to her estranged lover’s vacation home to take shelter. When a mysterious and provocative teenager named Lana (Sydney Sweeney) shows up one day, Karen becomes obsessed and entangled with the irresistible femme fatale.
The film is so much more than just a sexual coming-of-age story, although it’s refreshing to see another lesbian perspective shown onscreen with relatable (and nuanced) female characters. Karen and Lana are at different stages in their lives; the younger woman exploring a natural curiosity about love and lust, while the more mature woman is coming to terms with her own failures in life. Karen longs to revisit her days of youthful optimism, and Lana embodies that feeling. What bonds the two together is so much more than a physical attraction, it’s the loneliness and heartache that grows from a yearning to be loved.
The two leads turn in quiet, effective performances, even if their chemistry is a little stiff (luckily it still works within the confines of the story). The film is a slow burn with very little dialogue in the first twenty minutes, and even the most patient of viewers will likely be disappointed that the mystery that’s built never really pays off. Still, “Clementine” is so interesting and authentic and thoughtful, especially when it comes to the female LGBTQ experience on film, that it’s worth your time.