REVIEW: "Clementine" Shows the Beauty and Danger Of Teenage Naïvety, and Reminds Us What It’s Like to be One

Perhaps one of the most intriguing films to come out of Tribeca Film Festival this season was Clementine, an "equal parts psychological drama and sexual coming of age story" that centers on the unconventional relationship between two women. After a heartbroken Karen (Otmara Marrero) seeks asylum by breaking into her ex’s lake house, she encounters Lana (Sydney Sweeney), a mysterious teen who takes her on a ride, literally and metaphorically.

The two meet in rather strange circumstances - Karen spots Lana wandering (well, trespassing) on the property, but she says she is looking for her missing dog. Karen drives her around town to eventually find her dog, and their encounters continue from there. Their relationship is a slow burn, and the movie leisurely moves the story to a different, darker place by the end. Without giving much away, Clementine is an interesting movie that examines the complexities of female relationships. It is very cyclic - “I really wanted to explore how a female relationship could oscillate between friends, rivals, teacher/student, sisters, lovers, protector/protected all at the same time” director Lara Jean Gallagher told Her Campus in an exclusive interview. There is also a bit of an age gap between them, which some viewers found to be problematic.

One of the most engrossing focuses in the film is the nature of Lana. What Clementine does best with its characters is reminding us all what it’s like to be a teenage girl - especially one who is ambitious and wants to take on the world. Lana is an aspiring actress who dreams of getting out of town and starting her career in Los Angeles. At the same time, she’s trying to figure out who she is as a person. Sweeney agrees that her character is one who’s shrouded in mystery, and also believes that she is trying to figure out what love is, and what it means to the people around her. As the film goes on, the viewer gets the impression that Lana is anything but transparent. She's not actually as mature as she says, but just acts like it. She gets into situations that are dangerous or unwise, due to her naïvety and daring spirit. “I don’t think you learn right away when you’re 16 years old” Sweeney says. “You make the same mistakes a few times… I think she’s still going to find curiosity through different people until something major happens.” Her audacious nature and actions catch up to her in the end, however, all laid out with a heart-wrenching monologue. In the big *moment* around the climax of the film, it’s unsettling to watch Lana. She is on camera, vulnerable, confused, and hurt - a stark contrast of the confidence and maturity she normally exudes. It reminds everyone that Lana is still basically a child, and surely has a lot to learn. But seeing Lana learn or grow from her experiences is also kind of beautiful, in a tragic way. Seeing how unworldly she is due to her age and inexperience is a reminder of the delicacy of teenagers. It’s easy to forget what it was like being in that stage of your life and how all you want to do is mature and become your future self. We could be a little reckless at times, but we always believed what we were doing was right.

What worked for me in Clementine was how it shows that there are multiple layers to girls, something that is sadly still important to remind Hollywood of. Having a female director at the helm who drew on parts of her own life for the film served to benefit both of the characters. By the end of the film, both Karen and Lana learned something about themselves and each other. Clementine is also a bit of a teaching moment for teenage girls, who are at a very special time at their lives. While naïvety inevitably comes with age and lack of wisdom, it’s helpful to take guidance and be smart about certain situations. Life is all about trial and error, and while it’s important to make mistakes, it’s equally important to use your head when making decisions. Advice the film’s stars would give to Lana? For Sweeney, it’s all about self love. “I think that many times people look for other people to love them in order for them to love themselves, especially as a teenage girl. Love who you are and you don’t need that validation from other people.” For Marrero, she urges Lana to continue being curious. “Continue asking questions. That’s always how you find yourself, asking the right questions. Don’t let that curiosity fade.”

Gallagher advises teens to find themselves in whichever way is necessary. “I think it’s really all about figuring yourself out or trying to know yourself … you can decide how you want to be too. Everyone should journal and try to be in touch with themselves, and be aware that even if there’s heartbreak or sad things, you can use it. You can use it to grow and change.. it doesn’t have to be like that. You can learn from it.”

Clementine premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April and is currently seeking distribution.