Written by Graham Moore and Johnathan McClain and directed by the former, The clothe centers on Leonard: an elite cutter who makes clothes for a family of gangsters. When Leonard gets entangled in the family mess, we learn that there may be more to them – and Leonard – than meets the eye.
The clothe is a master of economy: of space, time and characters. What’s more, the film takes place inside a single location – a tailor’s shop in Chicago. Then the story is told over a period of just a few days, and with only a handful of roles. It makes sense that this film was shot during the pandemic. However, these limitations never feel like they hinder or detract from the story. On the contrary, they amplify the sense of urgency, tension and intimacy.
Writing and directing
The twists are unexpected but logical. While they’re surprising, you don’t get lost in the inversions and reveals, which is a testament to the sharp writing. The last few minutes feel like they’re starting to veer off the rails a bit, getting dangerously close to unintentionally camped territory. But overall the intricate plot works and feels fresh. The film is sure to keep you guessing at every turn, culminating in a satisfying conclusion.
The clothe is very stylized. From the first moment, you feel immersed in the bright and dark world of crime and gangs of the 1950s. The juxtaposition of the city’s fast seedy underbelly and the slow, precise nature of Leonard’s work is compelling. It’s especially fascinating when the two worlds collide. Graham Moore’s expert direction creates a sense of danger and suspense at every turn. Combined with the stunning, gritty cinematography of Dick Pope, as well as the subtle performances. The film is sophisticated and very entertaining.
Speaking of performance, by Mark Rylance (Loan player one) Leonard’s masterful incarnation anchors the film. He feels like Benoit Blanc from Knives out, using his intelligence and quick-wittedness to stay one step ahead. Zoey Deutsch (Zombieland: double tap) continues to prove why she is one of the most versatile and talented young actresses today. The range she shows as Mabel is impressive and captivating.
One of the most intriguing parts of the film is the relationship between these two. Blurring the lines between a pseudo-father-daughter relationship and a mentor/protégé dynamic, the care and attention they have for each other is beautiful and something rarely explored.
The rest of the cast, including Dylan O’Brien (maze runner) as a youngster, titled Richie, Johnny Flynn as the explosive Francis, and Simon Russell Beale as the hulking mob boss Roy — is equally solid. They all play their part to perfection, working together seamlessly – and sometimes against each other as well.
If you’re in the mood for smart drama with mystery, finesse, and a shocking amount of heart, chances are you’ll enjoy the smooth, fast ride. The clothe take you on board.