Amazon Prime is a great platform, to be sure; but how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? There’s a slew of low-budget sci-fi on most streaming services, and it would take quite an effort to pick the best ones from a sea of identical looking films. Akash Sherman’s 2018 sci-fi romance didn’t make too many ripples on release, and awaits rediscovery on streaming; I happened upon it quite by chance, it’s a minor hidden gem.
Dr Isaac Bruno (Patrick J Adams) is an astronomer obsessed by finding life on far-away planets; so obsessed that his marriage has collapsed, and he’s fired from his job due to his intensity. Along comes a stranger, Clara (Troian Bellisario), who has no phone, no qualifications, but seems heaven sent to assist his quest. The two fall in love, and she helps him to make his dream a reality. But who is she, and where did she come from? Fans of classic sci-fi like Unearthly Stranger will see the twist coming, but it’s handled in an original way here.
Clara is a smart movie, and the details of how telescopes are used is convincing, and adds gravity to the story. Both Isaac and Clara have pain in their pasts, and the film meditates thoughtfully on what makes them tick. We’re talking quantum physics, of course, but Clara never overdoes the sci-fi and keeps the characters grounded in a recognisably small-scale reality.
Clara is a small but perfectly played movie that deserves to be singled out for praise, for an intelligent storyline, for a genuine interest in science, and a romance that gives the film heart. It’s not got the big production values of a Christopher Nolan film, but plays with the same issues as Interstellar to a different effect. For sci-fi fans, or romantics, a film like Clara is worth recommending; by going small rather than big, it unlocks the cosmic tumblers and sheds a little light on the potential tragedy of human obsessiveness.