Deep in the center of a film like Clean Slate, there lies a shot of reality that’s not very common in stories of this nature.
We’re talking about human beings overcoming something that seems impossible to understand for them, but that’s quite obvious for the rest who haven’t gone through the effects of addiction. A step forward doesn’t necessarily mean the direction will be maintained. There can actually be steps back in this horrific process. It doesn’t matter how many times we see the accomplishments, failures will reign in the public scrutiny.
Empathy is a mere word when faced with the real stories of those who sometimes give up.
In Clean Slate, these “failures” are part of the story and the reason for setbacks during a process that thrives on collaboration by everyone involved. Perhaps it doesn’t feel like a relevant endeavor but for the subjects it is, and that we should respect. In the film, two addicts who are part of a recovering system set out to make a short fiction film. They are simply trying to turn into a valuable element of society.
However, it isn’t a pleasant journey like you would think. It’s the other way around. From relapses to problems in sets, everything becomes an issue for the group led by two friends who must turn into leaders in the face of adversity. The experience isn’t as cathartic as everyone painted it to be.
One would think Clean Slate is a hopeful film, just like these documentaries always turn out to be. Nevertheless, in this one the situation is more complex. Director Jared Callahan doesn’t observe circumstances from the perspective of definite resolution. Conflicts are still part of a wound that keeps being reopened because of a drug addict’s capacity to relapse. In other circumstances, the documentary would have been made when the stories ended. Not this time.
A former drug addict’s journey possibly never ends. There’s no formula for the cure and everyone faces a different issue when dominated by substances that are relatively easy to find, buy and consume. It’s why Callahan’s film doesn’t necessarily aim at being happy, but realistic. Even if the story is also about filmmaking and the contrivances of creative people, it’s also a portrayal about finding oneself in the middle of a chaotic situation during which no one believes you. Not even your mother, the one who swore to love you no matter what.
It’s more than hopeful and inspirational. It’s reality masterfully edited by a talented filmmaker who understands the subjects at hand and makes a movie out of a problem without exploiting the situation with a questionable point of view. You will be inspired by the story, but more than that, you will feel inspired to help others.