New Releases for May 15

Clementine ***
“Coming of age” might not be the first descriptor that comes to mind for a story focusing on a woman in her 20s, but the way writer/director Lara Jean Gallagher incorporates that idea into her psychological drama is a lot of what makes it work. Otmara Merrero plays Karen, a 20-something woman unmoored by the breakup of her relationship with an older professional artist. Karen travels from Los Angeles to break into her ex’s Oregon lake house, where she meets Lana (Sydney Sweeney), an enigmatic teenager who seems both older and younger than her years. With the exception of a caretaker for the house (Will Brittain) who appears halfway through, this is largely a two-hander, and both lead performances are strong even as the characters keep things hidden. And Gallagher directs with a slick confidence that somehow manages to evoke something portentous from a stream of roadside pee. Mostly, it’s a strong story about the point when you realize you’ve evolved from needing a mentor for life lessons to potentially being that mentor, and how easy it is to take advantage of that relationship. It’s a solid minimalist exploration of what it means to become “old enough to know better.” Streaming May 15 via Utah Film Center Virtual Cinema. (NR)

New French Shorts **1/2
What’s true of most short films programs—uneven quality, even taking into account individual viewer preferences—is perhaps even more so of this collection of seven 2018 and 2019 French shorts from various film festivals. Some of the narratives feel too truncated by a 25-ish minute running time, like Foued Mansour’s Ahmed’s Song, about a surrogate father-son relationship between a longtime worker at a Parisian public bathhouse and the troubled teen assigned to work there as community service. And others set up an idea that doesn’t quite connect, like Clémence Poésy’s The Tears Thing and its tale of an actress who reconnects with an ex-girlfriend. There is the chance to see a director show some fun filmmaking skills that warrant a bigger canvas, like the playful visuals Marine Levéel brings to Magnetic Harvest’s story of a pig farmer trying to find a love connection. Otherwise, there’s a bit too much seriousness until we get to the energetic finale of Benjamin Crotty’s The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin, which allows a legendary hero of Napoleonic France tell his (self-aggrandizing) story before getting punctured by historical fact. Too few of these films satisfy fully on their own merits, rather than seeming like calling cards for a career in features. Streaming May 15 via Virtual Cinema. (NR)


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