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Claire Dolan Reviews

Icy and challenging, this portrait of a prostitute trying to change her life is far less flashy than writer-director Lodge Kerrigan's debut, CLEAN, SHAVEN, but it's shattering in its own quiet way. Dublin-born, New York-based Claire (Katrin Cartlidge) owes a substantial debt to fellow immigrant Roland Cain (Colm Meaney), and is paying it off by working for him as a call girl. Her mother is in an expensive nursing home suffering from a brain tumor, but when she dies Claire sees a chance to break free of Roland's oppressive influence. She decamps to nearby Newark, NJ, gets a job as a beautician and begins dating lonely cab driver Elton (Vincent D'Onofrio). But Roland soon tracks her down, and Claire returns to New York and goes back to her routine. But she's haunted and restless; she's 27 and knows her days as a high-priced prostitute are numbered. She also desperately wants a child and has tasted freedom. So she becomes pregnant by Elton and begins plotting to escape once and for all. Shot in cool, limpid colors and filled with reflecting surfaces, Kerrigan's film emphasizes Claire's alienation without resorting to the gaudy cliches of most movies about prostitutes and pimps. As in CLEAN, SHAVEN, he gives equal emphasis to sound design. There's very little music, but traffic noises, murmured conversation and other incidental sounds bleed into every shot; Claire's inscrutable face often feels like an oasis in the aural chaos. Much of the film's chilly success is due to English actress Cartlidge, who has an oddly direct gaze and a mouth full of sharp little teeth. Her performance is built entirely on small gestures and flickers of emotion that play briefly across her face; it's an extraordinary achievement, as underplayed as it is quietly devastating.