THE BOOK OF CLARENCE
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Omar Sy, RJ Cyler, Anna Diop, Nicholas Pinnock, Teyana Taylor, Caleb McLaughlin, Eric Kofi-Abrefa, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Alfre Woodard, Michael Ward, David Oyelowo, James McAvoy, and Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Jeymes Samuel
With his second feature-length film, The Book of Clarence, writer-director Jeymes Samuel continues to be the star of his own movie. His direction is one-of-one, and the ability to pair the score perfectly with each scene (he’s also the composer) is absolutely dynamic. While the film is entertainingly crafted, it does take some time for the story to fluidly establish the star-studded ensemble’s characters. The first act plays like a disjointed television series stumbling to find its footing. But when it finally comes together, Clarence’s magnetic style, talented cast, and thought-provoking take on religion brings Samuel one step closer to my “event director” shortlist.
With The Book of Clarence, director Jeymes Samuel shows much of the promise he displayed with 2021's The Harder They Fall, but unlike that film, this is a much more disjointed effort. Although the film maintained my attention throughout, I was never "IN" it, largely due to tonal inconsistencies. There are a range of genres (comedy, action, romance, drama), but they often don't mesh, and they certainly make the first "Book" drag more than others. That said, the film improves as it goes, and Samuel shows an undeniable ability behind the lens. It’s not bad, but it’s time to close this book and start another.
I am genuinely heartbroken by The Book of Clarence. Writer-director Jeymes Samuel showed boatloads of promise with his debut The Harder They Fall, and the concept of Clarence is so original and interesting. Even when watching it, I can see the film's potential shine through its genuinely great production values and terrific ensemble, led by a never failing LaKeith Stanfield. However, the writing is so muddled and all over the place that it fails to convey anything of note for anyone to take its great ideas seriously. There's excellence here, it's just not in the final product.