Clean (2005) - Rotten Tomatoes

Clean (2005)



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

Clean Photos

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.

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Maggie Cheung
as Emily Wang
Nick Nolte
as Albrecht Hauser
Jeanne Balibar
as Irene Paolini
James Johnston
as Lee Hauser
Martha Henry
as Rosemary Hauser
Remi Martin
as Jean-Pierre
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Critic Reviews for Clean

All Critics (66) | Top Critics (35)

The one-two combination of Nolte's essential generosity and decency as an actor with Cheung's innate levelheadedness nicely gets around the customary trumped-up "conflict" movies over-rely on.

November 19, 2013 | Full Review…

A disappointment.

March 2, 2008 | Full Review…

Cheung makes her character work, despite a weak plot and script, both by director Assayas.

October 13, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Maggie Cheung gives an astonishingly complex performance as a junkie rock star trying to clean up her act.

October 7, 2006

There are so many quiet, understated miracles unfolding in Clean that all you can do is watch in awe and amazement.

June 30, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It helps -- immensely -- that Cheung is pitch-perfect. Her performance is heartbreaking.

June 30, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Clean


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 Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer


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".

Rubia  Carolina
Rubia Carolina

Super Reviewer


Clean is all about the slow burn. It keeps itself thankfully distanced from the histrionics and melodrama of a typical drug movie, instead immersing itself in the ephemeral dream pace that most indie movies have. For what it's worth, not much actually seems to happen, and the development is far too subtle for most of the idiots on Flixster to comprehend. You can't blame people for finding the movie slow, but the path to recovering from addiction is a slow one. Maggie Cheung completely owned this role. She gives one of the most powerful, troubled, convictive performances I've seen in a very long time. Nick Nolte is great, as well, but this is Cheung's movie. Don't bother picking this one up if you consider yourself even slightly short of attention.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

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