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Clarity

Clarity begins with a family party in a mansion in Las Vegas, headed by matriarch Sharon (Dina Meyer). Vegas isn't really run by the mafia anymore, but it seems that not so long ago Sharon's husband had a lot of shady dealings and his widow is still extremely wealthy. Once apparently an enforcer, Malcolm (Tony Denison) now acts as unofficial uncle and deeply intimidating guardian to Sharon and her four kids -- three biological sons and adopted daughter Maggie (Dana Melanie), now embarking on med school.

But the party's hardly begun when Maggie collapses and is rushed to the hospital. The news couldn't be much worse: she's in the end stages of kidney failure and in desperate need of a transplant. Sharon asks Malcolm to find Maggie's birth mother, a task he accomplishes with impressive speed. But there's a further problem -- though very young when she had her daughter, Carmen (played by Nadine Velazquez in the present day and Lourdes Narro in flashback), didn't give the girl up for adoption. Instead, the baby she had named Claridad was kidnapped and sold as a toddler.

Carmen has moved on, marrying a man named Omar (Maurice Compte) and raising three sons of her own with him. But she has never forgotten Claridad or the despair of losing her, and when Malcolm arrives she doesn't hesitate to go with him, though the much less trusting Omar insists on coming along. And it's just as well he does, because Sharon is interested only in Carmen's kidney, and Sharon is very used to getting what she wants.

The build of tension is slow and quiet but very effective, especially in the flashback scenes with the younger Carmen and Omar (Geovanni Gopradi). This gradual unfolding of the past is an excellent way to draw the viewer in to the present-day crisis. The parallels between Sharon and Carmen are a little too forced, but both actresses shine in their respective roles -- Carmen is utterly convincing as a woman haunted by her past, while Sharon is the epitome of the dragon mother. It's Maggie who steals most of her scenes, however, as she faces her own mortality with strained, dark humor.

Organ donation is a miraculous thing, but sometimes even the distinct advantage of money to burn isn't a guarantee of life. And Clarity asks some complex and terrible questions. It's easy to say you would give anything for your child, but how far would you really go? Fortunately not many parents have to push that question too far, but here both mothers have to move into uncharted territory. It's a four out of five star exploration of family, the hidden sins of the past, and beating even the worst odds.

Image: 
Movie poster. We could all use a little more clarity in life.

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