Claire in the community

Claire Dolan, a new film by Lodge Kerrigan, is a bleak portrait of life as a prostitute in New York, but the buildings are used to great effect.

The term bleak would not be an understatement when describing the latest film from US independent film-maker Lodge Kerrigan. Claire Dolan is the story of an attractive immigrant prostitute in New York City, trying to escape from the clutches of her grisly pimp, to whom she is deeply in debt. This necessitates her behaving professionally with a succession of faceless businessmen in a succession of impersonal hotel rooms – scenes which pepper the film.

Irish actor Katrin Cartlidge of Naked fame, plays Claire. Cartlidge is cold enough to make the character believable and just warm enough to arouse some sympathy. While she manages to create successful working relationships with her clients, her dealings with friends and family are more awkward. And her behaviour with her boyfriend is almost unfathomable.

Her pimp is played by Colm Meaney, who appeared in Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy, but he may be better known among anoraks as engineer O’Brien in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. If viewers are in any doubt as to what an unpleasant sort he is, he picks up Claire’s pet cat and drops it out of the several-storeys high window.

But the storyline is not the only bleak element to this film. Kerrigan uses the urban landscape of New York to great effect, allowing the camera to linger on buildings’ geometric shapes and shadows. For any connoisseur of urban architecture, this film is a treat. The director of photography Teodoro Maniaci finds chiaroscuro patterns even in the tree-lined path Claire walks down having just buried her mother.

The atmosphere does not really let up, even in the last scene where we get a smile out of the pregnant Claire while she is having a scan. But despite this, the film is engaging and visually rewarding.

Claire Dolan is released on 5 May by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London.

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