The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Emily is always in motion, driven by disquiet, unhappy with herself and the decisions that got her here. Her mind seems elsewhere, focusing on what would bring her peace: heroin. She and her partner Lee are rock stars whose moment of fame has passed and stranded them in a Canadian motel. They fight, she drives off into the night, scores drugs, shoots up, and sleeps in the car. When she returns to the motel, Lee is dead of an overdose. She should quietly back away and leave town. Instead, she gets herself arrested and sentenced to six months for possession.
Emily is played by Maggie Cheung with such intense desperation that she won the best actress award at Cannes 2004. Only a few actresses in the world could have handled this role from a technical point of view: Born in Hong Kong, a citizen of the movie world, she acts here mostly in English, with some French and Cantonese, and moves confidently through Vancouver, Paris and London. She always looks as if she knows the rules, even when she has broken them; despite being broke and strung out she retains enough personal authority to call in favors and ask old friends for jobs.
She and Lee (James Johnston) have a child named Jay (James Dennis), who is about 6. She loves him, and maybe she tells herself she isn't raising him because it's better that way for Jay. The boy is living with Lee's parents, Albrecht and Rosemary Hauser (Nick Nolte and Martha Henry). When she goes to jail, of course she loses custody. She loses more than that, and observe how low her voice is, and how downcast her eyes, as she answers questions at an interrogation. She is defeated; she knows precisely how she destroyed her life and lost her boy.
"Clean," written and directed by Cheung's former husband Olivier Assayas, does a brisk, understated job of implying Emily's past by observing her present. In the eyes of her old friends, we understand what she used to be, and what they see now. She lives in the moment. Consider the steps in Paris by which she begins by asking for a job and ends up with a free room.