Saturday, October 9, 2010

Clare Dolan

A Irish woman works as a high-priced prostitute in New York City in order to pay off a debt to a man who is acting as her pimp. When her mother dies the woman runs away to Newark, gets a job as a beautician and starts a romance with a taxi driver. One day her pimp finds her...

You think you know how this story would play out from that description but the film Clare Dolan is nothing like you'd expect. The characters here act out the story in a very austere and controlled way.  Except for two momentary scenes, neither of which involve the title character, there is no violence. Even when the pimp finds Clare he doesn't raise a hand to her. He simply tells her to get back to work and drives her to Manhattan.
     Little is outright explained in the movie. There are no clunky exposition monologues explaining everyone's backstories or motivations. They talk tersely to each other like people who already know watch other well would and the audience is just left to speculate. How long has Clare done this? Did she do it before she had to pay this debt? Why is she so cold and mechanical to all men, even her boyfriend? None of those questions are answered, but you do eventually see that a child is the one thing that means something to her. She carries an unsmiling expression on her face for most of the film and the only time she smiles in the entire picture is at the end when she watches a sonogram of her unborn child.
   It's an eerie, mesmerizing film played out mostly in a landscape of straight angled offices and hotel rooms often viewed through mirrors or windows. Katrin Cartlidge is powerful in the title role doing a combination of serene  blankness and vulnerability. It's sobering to realize she would die four years after this film came out. Colm Meany cuts a calm and businesslike but subtly menacing figure as the pimp and Vincent D'Onofrio is fine as the taxi driver who futilely tries to understand his lover. What's most stunning to me is that the director, Lodge Kerrigan, has only made two other films since this was done in 1998. How does someone this talented get so few chances to work in this day and age?

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