Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 28
  2. Negative: 0 out of 28
  1. Can a misguided adult start afresh with a new set of values and priorities? This ambitious drama, directed by one of France's most resourceful filmmakers, explores that crucial question in depth and detail.
  2. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Cheung gives a revelatory performance.
  3. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    A superb effort by a first-rank director, and manna from heaven for Cheung fans.
  4. 100
    Cheung is one of the finest actresses working today, an expressive, lustrous beauty capable of plumbing a boundless range of emotional hues. This is the greatest performance she's given to date.
  5. 91
    Beautifully shot and cut, written with a visceral aversion to cliche, deftly skirting sentimentality, sensationalism and simplicity, it continually surprises, engages and satisfies. For a small, unheralded film, it's a knockout.
  6. One of the most emotionally honest movies about drug addiction ever made.
  7. 88
    Emily is played by Maggie Cheung with such intense desperation that she won the best actress award at Cannes 2004.
  8. Clean, director Olivier Assayas' spellbinding study of a junkie trying to get her life in order so she can reclaim custody of her child, avoids the pitfalls, brilliantly.
  9. 83
    Nolte brings this movie a piece of his heart, and grants us peace.
  10. 80
    The emotional truthfulness of Clean enters into our bloodstreams with its muted vigor, and we find ourselves getting hooked by this tale of getting unhooked.
  11. Clean is one of those movies that's slightly off the mark in ways that are hard to put a finger on, but it is shot so soulfully and features such beautiful performances that it's easy to forgive the occasional false note.
  12. Albrecht brings out a side of Mr. Nolte rarely seen on the screen, and he gives a deep and touching portrayal of a haggard, beleaguered older man.
  13. Reviewed by: Jessica Reaves
    Clean is above all a movie about making peace with uncertainty and doubt and living with the aftershocks of the choices we make. Not the easiest task, but it may be what redeems us in the end.
  14. When these two powerhouse performers come together, a rather predictable tale ignites with surprising force.
  15. 75
    Cheung and Nick Nolte seem unlikely co-stars, but co-star they do in Clean, giving gritty performances under the direction of Frenchman Olivier Assayas.
  16. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Clean has the same mixture of human tenderness and borderline-silly Eurochic that marks Wenders films like "Until the End of the World."
  17. Not your average divorce gift: Clean's writer-director Olivier Assayas created the role of recovering rock-world druggie Emily Wang for his ex-wife, art-house/action-pic royalty Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love).
  18. The rough, exposed emotional candor of Cheung's singing voice carries into her performance.
  19. 75
    The film gets its distinction from the performances by Cheung and Nolte, whose scenes together are suffused with loss and unexpected mutual compassion.
  20. Hitting the ground in his ultra-naturalistic mode, Assayas only uncages his star's formidable smile once or twice and never demands our empathy, making Clean a uniquely pungent portrait of dependent personalities and the strain they put on the social weave.
  21. 70
    It's the moral journey of Nolte's character that is the real story in Clean, but Assayas instead focuses on the manipulative habits of an addict, resulting in a mannered study of narcissism and self-pity.
  22. It's not so much a movie in three acts as three movies stuffed into a single casing, and often showing the strain.
  23. Maggie Cheung, who was in Assayas's Irma Vep, plays Emily with a semi-detached feeling--observing the role as much as portraying it. The chief pleasure in the picture is Nick Nolte's performance as the boy's paternal grandfather.
  24. An unflinching look at the ravages of substance abuse, and it's also a sobering redemptive tale.
  25. Cheung can't make the woman very interesting in her own right--the most compelling performance here is Nolte's.
  26. Reviewed by: Alan Morrison
    Bit of a mediocre drama from writer-director Assayas despite some good turns, not least from Nick Nolte and Beatrice Dalle.
  27. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Dramatically pallid and unconvincing. Despite being written for her, the director's "Irma Vep" muse Maggie Cheung seems oddly miscast here and is ill-served by an emotionally underpowered screenplay that rarely gets beneath the surface of the character's problems.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 7
  3. Negative: 1 out of 7
  1. ChadS.
    Apr 22, 2007
    "Clean" might be a film in code about the most infamous of all rock-and-roll widows, but I hope not, since Allison Anders' "Sugar Town" had already done a fine job of eviscerating(again, in code) this woman, who nevertheless, love her or hate her, arguably served the important and underrated function of muse for the troubled drug-addled musician. Emily Wang(Maggie Cheung) is also universally hated by the music industry for fueling her husband's appetite for poison, but like her real-life counterpart, she played a part in her husband's artistic triumphs by incident; by just simply being there(without Love in Kurt Cobain's life, maybe he might've simply been a Black Francis-wanna-be). The fact that Emily is Chinese makes her unpopularity complicated since the hatred she's encumbered with might be a two-fold attack(the public's distaste for Emily's heroin addiction could be a cover-up for the real issue at hand; she's Asian), which the filmmaker smartly leaves to our imagination; the only mention about Emily's ethnicity comes from her uncle. "Clean" elects to keep Emily's withdrawal from heroin largely off-screen(leave the writhing in agony to Darin Aronofsky); the film is more concerned with her redemption. A filmmaker with a heavy hand would demonstrate a recovering addict's unfitness to be a parent by staging a relapse. What this director does is brilliant; he casts doubt about Emily's ability to exercise sound parental judgment by the mode of transportation she supplies for her son. "Clean", led by Cheung's glamorous, yet somehow gritty performance, has us rooting for her every step of the way to a recovering junkie's nirvana. Full Review »
  2. MarcK.
    Jul 30, 2006
    Too bad this wasn't released in America until 2006, and too bad when it was released, it came and went. This is one of the best 2006 releases in America. Maggie Cheung clearly deserved the Best Actress award at Cannes for this performance. While she's the reason to see this movie, the plot is also well-done, and is a more positive piece than most of the films in this genre. Full Review »
  3. MauraC.
    Jul 7, 2006
    Interesting and meditative movie. Visually very beautiful, but could have used a little more depth when it came to the characters. The story was overall fairly touching, but sometimes seemed a bit meandering and pointless. Okay movie that could have used some more work to make it great. Full Review »