Clean (2004)

 This is one of the movies I recently saw. I was impressed by it because it surpassed my expectations. Well… I really didn’t know what to expect, because other than knowing the 2 main actors, Nick Nolte and Maggie Cheung (2046, Hero, In the Mood for Love), I had never heard of this movie.

The story is about a woman named Emily (Cheung), who manages her musician-boyfriend Lee. But she has a hard time finding a good record deal for him, cause both he and her suffer from a drug addiction that stands in the way of his come-back. Together they have a son, Jay, who lives in Canada with Lee’s parents (Nolte). Emily faces a lot of bad press as the main cause of Lee’s addiction and downward spiralling carreer. One night after a fight, Emily drives off from the motel where they were staying, only to find Lee the next day, overdosed. Now, without her love and still an addict, she faces the fact that she might not get her kid back if she does not clean up her act and find a steady job. Though all she really wants to do is get the chance to make music, to be close to Lee.

source for picture below here

Now I don’t know if I did the plot any justice, cause reading it back it just sounds like your typical ‘addict trying to turn life back on track’-story, though in a sense it is – but in an other sense it isn’t. It has some very original elements in it. And I believe it is mainly because of Cheung’s performance. For a start, I was very impressed she was so eloquent in English and French. But she performed good. Dazzed as an addict and numb after Lee’s death. But a fighter in her quest after creativity and her son.

Then there is Nolte – now he is the big surprise in this movie. I’ve seen him several times. But how he acted here, was admirable. He’s good as the understanding father. And man – he has a look in his eyes, you’d believe just about anything he says with a look like that. Very powerfull. Very convincing.


  • Lee was played by James Johnston of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: I did not know that.
  • At the Cannes Film Festival of 2004, the movie was nominated for a Palm d’Or and Cheung received an award for Best Actress in Clean.

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