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Film review: Clara 

New Canadian drama goes to space and back.

click to enlarge Bellisario as the titular Clara.
  • Bellisario as the titular Clara.

The new Canadian drama Clara pokes at the big questions: Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? Is love worth the pain?

Isaac (Patrick J. Adams, from Suits) is an astronomer racing fellow scientists for the NASA-funded opportunity to discover new life in the universe, except he fucks up and gets fired from his university job, losing access to his resources. Undaunted—and doing some major personal-life avoidance in the wake of his divorce—he forges ahead with independent study, taking on the worldly wandering soul Clara (Troian Bellisario) as his live-in research assistant. She carries totems she's gathered from her travels, loves Bob Dylan and has a rescue dog—you know the type. She's trying to push Isaac back to love without really offering herself as his saviour, while also hungry to learn about the science he loves so much. (So. Much. There is so much science talk in Clara.)

The film's two big selling points—director Akash Sherman was 22 when he made it; Bellisario and Adams are married—would be gravy to a more intriguing movie. But Clara has outsized ideas that dominate and weaken the film beneath it—there's no humour; Isaac is saddled with a loss that will invite unkind comparisons to Arrival; there is no way to overstate the amount of data talk; the whole thing is fittingly self-serious in a film-school way. It does gain traction in its final 20 minutes, when Clara's big reveal appears and pays off most of the previous hour, but that sacrifices actual emotion for dutifully plotted emotional beats. Space nerds may find more to love; regardless Sherman is an assured director who clearly has big plans.
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Vol 26, No 29
December 13, 2018

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