NYCIFF - Winter Claire (2018) Reviewed

The uncertainty that pervades a young person's transition to adulthood is a theme that has been explored countless times in cinema.  The humor, heartbreak, and ultimate self-discovery are cornerstones of coming of age stories, usually involving a free-spirited heroine adrift in a whirlwind of emotional turbulence and apprehension.  Sophie Bedard Marcotte's feature film debut Winter Claire (Claire l'hiver) exists in between these genre expectations, using a variety of clever techniques to present a turtle-paced journey of reflective boredom. 

Claire is a young artist, recently graduated, who is in the midst of a break up.  While Claire searches for meaning in the everyday repetition of the "real" world, a lost spaceship looms overhead, threatening to destroy Claire's very existence.  Marcotte's script is an interesting foray from conventional storytelling.  Many of the exchanges are captured by Claire's phone, with animation and long takes spliced in between.  The dialogue is purposefully mundane, stressing the implied emptiness that remains in the wake of a life changing separation.  Claire floats through night clubs and art shows while the world around her, including an endless procession of snowplows, carries on.  There is a sense of loneliness that saturates almost every frame, and yet, Claire's quirkiness manages to endear none the less.  

Isabelle Strachtchenko's cinematography teeters on the edge of elegiacal indulgence, framing interior shots with wide, empty compositions and long takes of thoughtful meandering.  The bulk of the actors are captured from a distance in odd angles, simulating the varied presence of smartphones and their inseparable place within the modern world.  The animation for the spaceship is predictably hokey, perfectly emulating the fantasy world of dreams and fears that haunt everyone as they learn self-reliance.  The concept of a deadly chance encounter could have mirrored Kelly's Donnie Darko, and yet, Marcotte uses the scenario as a means of fatalistic procrastination.  The end result is a somber revelation of the universal truth that things will always get better. 

Coming (hopefully) soon to streaming platforms, Winter Claire is perfect brevity.  While the pace is glacial, the 62-minute runtime gives the viewer just enough of glimpse inside the world of film’s contrary heroine.  Bored and wounded, yet creative and inspired, Claire is an avatar for a generation in confusion.  The magic of this intimate experience is that it never devolves into darkness.  While the influences of the French New Wave are intrinsically woven into its DNA, the final result is a film about the wonders of uncertainty, not the dangers. 

--Kyle Jonathan