[Atlanta Film Festival] Clara's Ghost (2018) - Reviewed

Clara's Ghost screened at ATLFF

Writer-director Bridey Elliott’s debut feature is not a very interesting affair. Enrolling all the family (including herself) as her cast to play what seem to be slightly warped versions of themselves, in order to work out some family issues, hidden as self-mockery, seems like a good idea for a short film. A feature could work, though, in more experienced, capable hands.

Clara (Paula Neidert Elliott) and her husband Ted (comedian Chris Elliott) travel to their Old Lyme, Connecticut country home where they are joined by their former child actor daughters, Julie (Abby Elliott) and Riley (writer-director Bridey) to spend the weekend and celebrate the family dog’s birthday.

Plans for Julie’s impending wedding to an older producer, are also mentioned (mainly by Julie herself), throughout the proceedings. Family friend and human punching bag, Joe (a weird looking, bearded, Haley Joel Osment) joins them for a night of drinking games and pretty much nothing else.

As the three actors in the family vie for attention, Clara perambulates the house in a stupor, intermittently catching glimpses of a ghost (Isidora Goreshter), presumably the home’s original owner.

Clara is an insecure woman and being surrounded by a clan of actors does not help her mental stability at all. Though the focus is supposed to be on her, neither she nor the rest of her family are compelling enough to maintain the viewer’s interest on the goings on.

Shot evidently with multiple cameras (at least in some instances) there is a television feel that cannot be shaken, even though the style Bridey is actually going for is in the vein of Johnathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married specifically comes to mind), neither her directing nor her screenplay ever rise to the occasion.

Her self-conscious jibes at herself and her family might work as in jokes but really do nothing for the film.

A night of family drunkenness, parent child jealousy and competition, a mother that wants to, simultaneously, be left alone and shine in the spotlight, just for once in her life. At least that last part actually comes to be, for the non-actress Neidert Elliott, who surprisingly offers the best performance in the film, as a woman constantly put down by her attention hogging family.

In the end, it is all just a boring showcase of white privileged folks, and pretty much nothing else, which pretends to be making fun of precisely that, without ever being funny or gripping; and not even a nervous-breakdown-murder-attempt and subsequent disappearance in the woods helps make it any better.

The best take off from watching the Elliott’s, is being reminded of the existence of Chris’s brilliant TV series Get a Life.

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-Manuel Rios Sarabia