Jack (Aidan Bristow) is the high school hero, a football player who risked his own safety to propel his team into a much-needed win (and is, subsequently, unable to play in any more games). His problems are few, save a girlfriend (Avital Ash) who won’t put out (though he’s not above getting around that problem). However, just as the town celebrates his achievement, so too does the town and school mourn the death of another student, Claire (Jennifer Baute), who was killed by a drunk driver.
Jack doesn’t really remember Claire, but he is curious about her, especially after he finds a class photo where it appears that she is staring at him. As his perfect little world starts to crumble (turns out his infidelity, and his other bad decisions, might have consequences for not just him, but all his friends), he becomes more and more obsessed with Claire, wondering how her life, and death, may have been connected to his own.
The biggest challenge an audience will face with Claire is overcoming how unlikable so many of the main characters turn out to be. If they’re not scheming behind each other’s backs, they’re at least sleeping behind them. It’s a high school of such devious machinations it reminded me of Tim Blake Nelson’s high school-set adaptation of Othello, O.
Since it’s hard to root for anybody, even Jack’s best friend Aiden (whose supposedly noble attempts to stop helping Jack do horrible things are undone by the fact that he never stops helping), a detachment grows as you watch the film. By the end, you really don’t care what happens to any of these young adults; you might instead hope that karma kicks all of their a***s even more.
It’s also hard to understand Jack’s motivations, beyond his own selfishness. Considering all the things that he is easily directly guilty of, his lingering fear that Claire’s death is somehow related to him seems odd; why care about that, when he doesn’t seem to care about anything else? Why care that she might have had a crush on him, when he has already jeopardized his current relationship with his very real, living girlfriend?
So it’s hard to connect with most of the characters, hard to really care. Which is a tough place to be if you’re the audience, because what then do you fall back on? All that’s left is the mystery of Claire, and how she may or may not have been connected with Jack. But is there really much mystery there, once you know when and where she died? It’s really not that complicated.
In the end, if you can find something to like about Jack and his “friends,” I think it’ll help you stay engaged. I couldn’t do it, and I’m an optimist. When you make a film about the pretty and popular kids being conniving a******s, and most of your sympathetic characters are bit players (or dead, if you’re Claire), then it’s an obstacle to overcome in the narrative. I don’t know that Claire does, and the attempt left me cold.
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