The Clearing (a work in progress)

Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Screenwriters: Justin Haythe

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


A marvelous precision, an attention to detail, and a subtlety distinguish all aspects of The Clearing, the debut feature of Pieter Jan Brugge. In many ways, it's a classic American story: It's not so much about good and evil as it is about class, individuality, and family. Fueled by a set of first-rate performances and a finely wrought screenplay, The Clearing tells the story of a couple who are living the American Dream.

Wayne (Robert Redford) and Eileen (Helen Mirren) are a self-made success story. They've built a successful business, raised two children, and live in a suburban mansion. Not that there haven't been bumps in the road, but for the most part they live an extremely comfortable life. Suddenly a crisis occurs when Wayne is taken hostage by a man from his past whom he doesn't even remember, Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe), obliterating the family's security and catapulting Wayne and Eileen into an ordeal that forever changes their lives.

The Hayes family, nondemonstrative by nature, must find ways to deal with their overwhelming anxiety and fear. But the most exceptional qualities of this finely balanced drama lie in the small gestures of Redford's and Mirren's performances, both finely tuned in the execution of their craft. Dafoe, too, inhabits his character perfectly, and, along with the seemingly minor elements of the narrative, The Clearing cumulatively builds to a powerful and emotional resolution that will resonate long after the final curtain.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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