Arthur de Larroche (“American Bistro”) and Micaela Wittman (“Modern Family”) direct and star in the mockumentary “Clairevoyant.” The film begins as a glorified vlog in which ignorant rich girl Claire (Wittman) is determined to lead her viewers, and herself, to a spiritual awakening. With Larroche as Wittman’s hired cameraman, the film follows Claire’s increasingly desperate attempts at finding enlightenment. In doing so, it turns its initially comedic tone into something more serious, raising questions of privilege, trauma and what makes life worth living.
The film opens with Claire sharing with her morning yoga class that she needed to make a documentary about her spirituality. The catch is that she knows little about spirituality and has not yet found the enlightenment she desires for herself. Thus begins a series of meetings with a yoga instructor, a Native American man whom she ignorantly believed to be Buddhist, an actual Buddhist and several psychics of sorts. They all leave Claire more confused about the nature of spirituality, forcing her to confront the reality of her past and the reasoning behind her desire to be spiritual in the first place.
The filmmakers wonderfully intertwine Claire’s dead-serious pursuit of happiness via spirituality and the unspoken satirical commentary on modern society’s schemes to profit off of people’s emotions. With each attempt at spiritual improvement, Claire must pay her spiritual consultants a high price for the potential happiness she seeks. But this is not an exclusionary barrier, since a girl like Claire, who has an elevator in her own home, does not hesitate to pay these prices. Still, they raise the questions of who is allowed to prioritize happiness and if enlightenment is only for the rich.
After exploring the privilege of commercialized spirituality, the film takes things one step further and asks whether Claire will find happiness at all.
Claire’s awkwardness shines in early scenes, where she repeats herself and second-guesses whether certain shots will look wrong. Wittman’s convincing acting not only brings the audience into a world where this is a real documentary but also pulls them into the filming process. Combining these lenses allows the film to discuss more serious themes, most notably the fact that Claire is depressed and that enlightenment is just her attempt to escape from herself and her past.
While trying to get answers from a religious woman, Claire says, “I don’t want to be sad anymore; I just want to be happy all the time,” which strikes the heart of the film’s point. The progression into ever more thought-provoking questions (though still never entirely abandoning comedy) sets Claire up for a powerful ending where she can finally give the audience some answers. Unfortunately, this is where the film falls short.
Without giving away the ending, Claire tries something utterly unexpected as a last-ditch effort to fix her emotional state, after which the film cuts to six months later as she delivers a short speech, telling the audience her final thoughts and reflections on spirituality and joy. This moment is built up well; Claire’s emotional trauma and desire to escape from her mind becomes more evident as the desperation of her attempts to find happiness increase in each scene. What we don’t see, however, is precisely when she reaches her conclusion. After an hour of anticipation, Claire turns off the camera, only to return having solved her problem off-screen. She won’t tell us what this window leading to a happier life consisted of, only that we each need to find our own paths to happiness.
Besides the lack of an explicit epiphany moment, the ending is not entirely unsatisfying. Still, having created so many loose ends throughout the film to then say that we must find individual answers for ourselves feels like an easy way out. That said, the film does leave the viewer with perspectives not frequently explored, despite how much stronger it could have been if it provided the audience with more thoughtful answers to the questions it raised or, at least, a scene where the character discovers these answers for herself.
Daily Arts Contributor Erin Evans can be reached at email@example.com.