Thursday, January 28, 2010


Clean tells the story of Emily Wang, a past-her-prime ex-MTV star caught up in her hopeless dreams of super-stardom, along with her ex-rock star husband. However, her already spinning out of control life takes a sudden dive when her husband unexpectedly dies of a drug overdose in a rundown hotel in Hamilton, Ontario. Now she has been busted with drug possession and sentenced to six months in prison. Once released from prison, she now realizes that her life is quickly wasting away. So she decides she wants to turn her life around, and in it she wants to include her neglected son Jay. Now she must fight to prove to her son’s grandparents that she is capable of raising him, that she is clean and is ready to be a mother. But it won’t be easy.

Maggie Cheung is a beautiful woman, there is no doubting that. In ‘Clean’ she has managed to somehow hide herself behind a trashy, burnt out drug addict. And she does it so well. Maggie Cheung is phenomenal in ‘Clean’ (she won the Best Actress Award for her duties at the 2004 Cannes film festival). Despite her bad choices, you really care for her character, you really want to see her get her life together. Even if her son is kind of irritating. The acting in the film was great all around; Nick Nolte was equally great, playing Maggie Cheung’s caring and concerned, but harsh father in law. However, there are times in film when a bad actor, especially a child actor can kill a wonderful scene. Maybe I am being too harsh; he was not all that bad. . .

Another aspect of the film that needs to be mentioned is the music. It has a beautiful soundtrack, with a handful of tracks performed wonderfully by Cheung herself. Which they also managed to fit into the story of the film, as Cheung’s character continues to pursue her dream of being a singer.

The film also hits home for me, literally. The opening scenes of the film are shot where I live. Hamilton Ontario (well I live just outside by a few blocks.) so a lot of the shots are quite familiar, including the absolutely beautiful shots of the Hamilton Steel Mill Which I can assure you in reality smells far less beautiful. The cinematography is stunning in ‘Clean’ there are some very nicely filmed scenes, and some great camera work.

Clean tells a very sweet, and sad story. It may not be for everyone, some could be turned off simply by its style. A style which really sets it apart, however Maggie Cheung fans, and Asian cinema fans alike might really enjoy seeing such a different side of Maggie Cheung. She has blossomed so well as an actress, it’s hard to believe that the woman you are seeing on this screen is the same girl who bumbled as Jackie Chan’s sidekick/girlfriend in the 'Police Story' series, or who displays such grace and beauty on screen in ‘In the Mood for Love’, and 'Hero'. So give Clean a chance, it is very much a hidden gem, a film that may leave quite an impact on you. Or for the very least show you how nice the Hamilton steel mill looks at night.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.0

A Film By Oliver Assayas

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