‘Moments of Clarity’: Napa Valley Review

Courtesy of Long Stem Pictures
Marred by an over-stuffed plot.

Lyndsy Fonseca and Kristin Wallace co-star in Stev Elam’s debut feature.

A fanciful road-trip/buddy comedy, Stev Elam’s Moments of Clarity requires a substantial suspension of disbelief without providing a comparable payoff of either comedic or dramatic returns. In large part this discrepancy is due to an awkwardly miscalibrated tone that consistently overestimates the central characters’ appeal and overstates the quirkiness of the plot. Sufficiently diminutive to play on smaller screens, the film seems unlikely to withstand the level of scrutiny occasioned by theatrical release.

Life for 24-year-old Claire (Kristin Wallace) consists of spending time at church or else at home, cooped up with her controlling, agoraphobic mother Henrietta (Saxon Trainor). On a rare sojourn outdoors, she encounters Danielle (Lyndsy Fonseca), the daughter of the local pastor, who’s about the same age and almost as sheltered as Claire is. An aspiring filmmaker, Danielle’s prized possession is an old Super 8 camera that she uses to shoot everyday occurrences in her neighborhood, but when Claire accidently breaks the camera, their newfound friendship falters, until Claire agrees to buy a replacement.

Without transportation, however, they’re stuck, until Danielle suggests they “borrow” Henrietta’s car and Claire reluctantly agrees to let her friend drive. Their errand to the electronics store gets extended after Danielle discovers that Claire hasn’t seen her grandparents since she was a teenager. At a nearby retirement home, Claire’s grandmother confides that Henrietta’s substantial mental problems are having an adverse effect on Claire’s ability to reach maturity and accept adult responsibilities, a revelation that sets the young woman on a course of self-discovery.  

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Apparently designed primarily as a vehicle for Wallace, who co-scripted the film with Christian Lloyd, Moments of Clarity struggles to bring its characters into focus. Claire, who should be a college graduate (or at least a student) at her age, is instead an overgrown child, and Wallace plays her as a cloying ingenue ripe for an overdue coming of age. Her social retardation is awkwardly and unconvincingly attributed to prolonged homeschooling and her mother’s mental issues, which appear to be insufficiently severe as to cause much permanent damage. Fonseca, the more experienced performer, can’t seem to resolve the dichotomy between Danielle’s rebellious streak and her responsibility to remain the dutiful pastor’s daughter, swinging back and forth between acting out and making nice.

Elam dutifully attempts to shoot Wallace’s script with a heightened sense of reality, but the absence of more sophisticated cinematography techniques leaves the pic playing more like poorly timed slapstick comedy. An implausibly farfetched final third edges ridiculously close to satire, but lacks sufficient social context or moral perspective to pull that off either.

Venue: Napa Valley Film Festival

Production companies: Long Stem Pictures, Phillm Productions

Cast: Lyndsy Fonseca, Kristin Wallace, Mackenzie Astin, Xander Berkeley, Eric Roberts, Saxon Trainor

Director: Stev Elam

Screenwriters: Christian Lloyd, Kristin Wallace

Producers: David J. Phillips, Kristin Wallace

Executive producers: Peter Wallace, Kamil Mroczek, Nolan Wallace

Director of photography: Chris Robertson

Production designer: Jessica Mahnke

Costume designer: Megan Spatz

Editor: Gordon Antell

Music: Zain Effendi

Casting: Candido Cornejo

Not rated, 97 minutes.

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