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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.12.17] drama

Dealing with loss is hard but dealing with unexpected loss can be completely traumatizing. When that unexpected loss leaves behind a trail of unexpected secrets... it's enough to drive anyone a little mad. That's the situation Claire finds herself in as the titular character in Claire in Motion.

Claire is a successful mathematics professor with a happy home life. She's married to Paul, an equally successful biology professor who works at the same university. The pair has a well adjusted young son who spends a lot of his free time knitting. For a few years Paul has been training for hikes where he goes into the woods with minimal supplies and survives by living off the land, eating plants and fruit he scavenges but on his second trip, he doesn't return as expected. A few days after his expected return, Claire goes to the police, setting into motion a search and rescue effort which brings with it some surprising and uncomfortable facts about the secret life Paul had been leading when Claire wasn't looking.

Writer/directors Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson have put together a small and very realistic film that deals with a number of different issues but perhaps most notable is their handling of deteriorating relationships and how couples drift apart. Though he wasn't having an affair, Paul was emotionally cheating on his wife and the longer he's missing, the more Claire starts to realise that they had been drifting apart for some time and though she may never know why he was suddenly interested in creating art and skydiving, it's clear that it had something to do with a feeling of disconnection from his family.

This realization isn't immediate but rather slowly unfolding and Howell and Robinson build Claire in Motion like a thriller, often peeking into the abyss without dropping in. The character of Claire is taxing to play because she is written as this calm and controlled woman who starts to lose control as the truth of her husband's secrets continue to unravel and the more she learns, the more she questions and the more unhinged she becomes. Betsy Brandt, best known for her role in "Breaking Bad" and her current performance in the cable comedy "Life in Pieces," does an amazing job of the role.

While most writers would have Claire break down in a big public display with lots of crying and maybe a bit of screaming, Howell and Robinson write the scenes of breakdown as mostly internalized with only glimpses of the turmoil and one quick moment of loss of control. Brandt is faced with the task of brooding with those emotions just beneath the surface and she steps up to the challenge, delivering a wonderful understated performance.

A great showcase film for Brandt, Claire in Motion is also notable for its realistic approach to loss, dealing with the unexpected and the slow and painful process of coming to terms with the realization that the person you thought you knew best has changed and worse still - is gone for good.

Claire in Motion opens in theatres and is available on demand on January 13.

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