Lee is a faded rock star who lives with his wife, Emily, a former host of a European music video show, in Canada. Lee and Emily are both addicted to heroin and have been battling drug addition for years. When Lee dies from an OD, Emily finds herself charged with possession and spends 6 months in prison. When Emily is finally released from prison, she is eager to meet her son Jay but Albrecht, Lee's father, gives Emily an ultimatum: get clean or never reconnect with Jay. Olivier Assayas' Clean is an intimate look at drug addiction and the road to redemption which is only elevated by its phenomenal lead performance. While there are tons of movies dealing with addiction and recovery, Clean is a film that by and large escapes the cliches of the genre. Assayas never apologizes nor shows embarrassment in capturing Lee's addiction and parental concerns, simply giving us a genuine, gritty portrait of her struggle. Overly dramatic moments and/or false sentimentality are also held to a minimum with Assayas using an abundance of handheld to create the gritty, realistic feel centered around Emily's issues. While the film never chooses sides in regards to Emily, Clean is able to make her somewhat relate-able in showing a broken women who is alone and desperate to get back to her son. Maggie Cheung is fantastic as Emily, but I believe Nick Nolte's performance as Albrecht is over-looked and under-valued. Personally, I really responded to this character, a man who is torn between everyone blaming Emily for Lee's death and his willingness to forgive and see his grandson be raised by his real mother. Clean is a somewhat gritty film about addiction and ultimately redemption, that ultimately achieves what it strives for because of its direction and performances.
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