> Volume 6 > Number 24


Pieter Jan Brugge

Robert Redford
Willem Dafoe
Helen Mirren
Matt Craven
Alessandro Nivola

Release: 2 Jul. 04

The Clearing


Their marriage as empty as an Enron employee’s bank account, the nouveau riche who forge happiness in The Clearing doesn’t ever fully conceal the cracks in the façade. This is more the achievement of actress Helen Mirren, though, as the film later persuades the audience to understand by hopelessly getting lost in a series of carefully plotted but completely silly story arcs. As director Pieter Jan Brugge gets further into his main plot, that of the kidnapping of her husband (Redford) by a former employee (Dafoe), these ideas of their marriage become distant memories of a film once possible. Barren relationship films are a dime-a-dozen, but the ones that work are usually masterful.

But The Clearing is more interested in the kidnapping than the wall between the kidnapped and the person who must pay for his release. I suppose that it is somewhat inventive that Brugge makes it clear early on whether the payoff was successful, but that doesn’t override that feeling that the film is biding its time, attempting to convince the audience that shots of a foggy North Carolina woodland and the clearing within is a meaningful representation of the relationship it started with. It’s a nice try, but when the film is padded this much and still can only afford a 91-minute length, its time to consider just dropping the project and releasing it as a short film in competition at a more accommodating venue like Sundance, where quality needn’t apply

©2004, David Perry,, 11 June 2004