Critics Consensus

In one of her best roles, Cheung gives a believable and arresting performance as a recovering addict.



Total Count: 66


Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,607
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Movie Info

A woman throws herself into a last-ditch struggle to conquer her demons in this gritty drama from director Olivier Assayas. Lee Hauser (James Johnston) is a faded rock star who lives with his wife, Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung), the former host of a European music video show, in a small town in Western Canada. Both Lee and Emily have been battling drug addiction for years, and when Lee finally dies of an OD, Emily finds herself charged with possession of heroin and ends up spending six months in jail. Lee and Emily's son, Jay (James Dennis), has been living with his paternal grandparents, Albrecht (Nick Nolte) and Rosemary (Martha Henry), and while Emily is eager to see her son after getting out of jail, Albrecht persuades her that she needs to get herself clean before she can reconnect with Jay. Determined to get off methadone, Emily relocates to France, where she scares up a job as a waitress and moves in with her old friend Elena (Béatrice Dalle). Emily's attempts to start a new career and stay off drugs prove to be an uphill battle, and she doesn't appear to be winning her fight when she learns that Albrecht and Jay will be accompanying Rosemary to London for medical treatment when Rosemary contracts a serious illness -- and that Albrecht is considering making a side trip to Paris. Clean was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.


Critic Reviews for Clean

All Critics (66) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (18)

Audience Reviews for Clean

  • Nov 29, 2017
    Maggie Cheung is impressive in this film, which showcases her as a serious actor and woman of the world, as she seamlessly speaks English, French, and Cantonese (and even sings). Nick Nolte turns in a fine performance as well. Unfortunately, I found the script to this story of redemption from drugs not as strong as their acting, often wandering, and Olivier Assayas's direction to plod along. I confess that addiction movies are harder for me to enjoy to begin with. The musical performances and soundtrack for such a film could have been better showcased, which, while I suppose wasn't the point of the movie, would have made it more entertaining. I did like the cinematography and panoramic shots that Eric Gautier gave us, but wouldn't recommend this movie without reservations.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 15, 2012
    Clean works as a thoughtful, smart, and realistic look at drug abuse and the ramifications from it. It features a powerful and nuanced performance by Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte, albeit in a similar role for him. It doesn't opt for cliched resolutions or answers, but is really quite authentic. At the same time, the film does have an overly slow pace, which borders on meandering, and does seem to occasionally lose focus, at first attempting to introduce various subplots, but never quite paying them off. Still, an effective drama marked by strong acting. 3.5/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 07, 2011
    Like a painting on the wall of the Met, films should continue to invite inspection long after the voyeur has left the theater--like true art should. Slow and bleak but still poignant, Clean kinda sort does this, leaving room for interpretation from filmgoers...if the audience is patient enough to take the whole journey with the characters. Wrestling with a failing singing career, drug addiction, and being an absentee mother to her young son, Emily Wang (Cheung) suddenly finds her life turned upside down and inside out by her husband's death in the R-rated Clean. Despite weaving a slow-going tale, director Olivier Assayes still renders an exceptional and complicated tale of redemption simply by posing the following question: "Can people change?" Backed with luminous performances, especially that of an extra grizzly Nick Nolte as her long-suffering father-in-law, Assayes wholly succeeds not by fully answering the question, but by allowing filmgoers to identify with this reality. Bottom line: Good habit.
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 21, 2009
    Impossible not to think about Kurt and Courtney, even if inspite of choosing to bring up a "glamourous" drug and rock n´roll world (or the typical approach of junkies trying to clean up), the movie focus on a woman trying to change her life and to get her son back. Another interesting point is that it´s not really a sweet movie about mother and son knowing each other and getting close. Emily is not likeable and she´s not even sure if she wants to settle down. However, it´s more to a "typical" drama movie than any other Olivier Assayas´s movies (I´ve seen) where "nothing really happens". </br> </br>
    Rubia Super Reviewer

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