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The Clearing - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

THIS year’s Sundance Film Festival was notable for many things, not least of which was the fact that its founder, Robert Redford, premiered a film there for the first time.

The Clearing, which was presented as a work in progress, attracted considerable acclaim from visitors, for its mature and considered approach to its subject matter.

Redford stars as a wealthy, self-made businessman who is kidnapped by a disgruntled, former associate (Willem Dafoe) and held captive in a remote forest. His wife (Helen Mirren), must work with the FBI to deliver the ransom.

The festival website declared in its pre-publicity that ‘a marvellous precision, an attention to detail, and a subtlety distinguish all aspects of The Clearing, the debut feature of Pieter Jan Brugge’.

The film isn’t so much about good and evil as it is about class, individuality, and family, and is driven by a set of first-rate performances and a finely wrought screenplay.

As with all good movies, The Clearing is also said to build, cumulatively, to a powerful and emotional resolution that will resonate long after the final curtain.

US reaction

ROBERT Redford may have received a favourable response to his independent feature, The Clearing, when it appeared at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but the film has failed to strike such a big chord with critics in America.

Variety referred to it as ‘a character-driven suspenser that engages the mind more than the emotions, but neither grippingly’.

While the Hollywood Reporter felt that ‘Brugge and Haythe fail to satisfactorily pull off either the thriller or the marital deconstruction’.

And the Chicago Tribune felt that ‘The Clearing is just an OK thriller, full of standard scenarios and cookie-cutter characters’.

Premiere Magazine even noted that ‘regardless of what The Clearing wants to be at any given moment - wrenching, thought-provoking, surprising, heartbreaking - all it ever is is tastefully lifeless’.

Of the positive reviews, Village Voice wrote that ‘with the emotional reins of the movie firmly in her grasp, Helen Mirren never condescends to her character, investing her with an unshakable poise that unnerves even as it reassures those around her’.

And Entertainment Weekly felt that ‘the story is Redford's, but with [Mirren's] trademark brisk practicality and ease in her own skin, she ransoms the actor from the constrictions of his self-definition as a romantic movie star’.

Rolling Stone even felt that ‘the pleasures of this endeavour, directed with a keen eye for detail by Pieter Jan Brugge, come from what the actors bring to the material’.

And LA Weekly opined that ‘Redford and Mirren, two masters of contained emotion, keep us peering intently at their faces, searching for clues - not as to whether Wayne will survive, but whether this marriage will’.

But Reelviews felt that ‘the benefits of seeing this movie may not be worth the patience necessary to get through it’.

And One Guy’s Opinion lamented that ‘stately, reserved and colourless, it can be described as serious and respectable, but also turgid and rather dull. Its inveterate good manners are ultimately its undoing’.

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