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‘The Book of Clarence’ Stands Out With Its Comedic Mythological Vision

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Religion, biblical stories, and ancient times are not always appealing to everyone, especially when it comes to film. Oftentimes, stories we grow up hearing may differ from versions heard by others. In some cases, bringing those stories to life and on the big screen can cause commotion, chaos, and controversy. Is it too accurate? Is it not accurate enough? Is it blasphemous? Is it creative and fresh? These are just a few of the questions that pop up but here’s the thing. It is important to set these questions aside, and look at these interpretations of ancient stories from a different perspective, a new and intriguing version of the story, or perhaps an imaginative tale. And that is where Jeymes Samuel’s The Book of Clarence comes into play.

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The Book of Clarence is a biblical era comedy-drama film that centers on Clarence, a man who is a non-believer in God, messiahs, and so-called miracles. However, being riddled with a seemingly never ending amount of debt, Clarence realizes he can milk out the benefits of acting as messiah as a way to earn enough money to relieve himself of his debts. The film consists of a stacked cast including LaKeith Stanfield, Omar Sy, Anna Diop, RJ Cyler, David Oyelowo, Alfre Woodard, Teyana Taylor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, James McAvoy, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

LaKeith Stanfield as Clarence in ‘THE BOOK OF CLARENCE’. Photo: Legendary Pictures/TriStar Pictures.

While there are many iterations of biblical stories, The Book of Clarence takes on the task of telling a fictional tale within the world of Jesus Christ and his disciples in which Clarence is the twin brother of the Thomas the Apostle who is biblically known as “the twin” and theorized to be the twin of Jesus. Jeymes Samuel manages to maintain a very mythological atmosphere throughout the film and avoids telling a story that indulges in passing off the world it takes place in as truth. And while this may be considered insulting to some, it is actually quite ingenious and makes for an entertaining watch once personal emotions are set aside and we keep our minds open.

(left to right) LaKeith Stanfield as Clarence, Omar Sy as Barabbas, and RJ Cyler as Elijah in ‘THE BOOK OF CLARENCE’. Photo: Legendary Pictures/TriStar Pictures

But above all, The Book of Clarence tells a story of many things including love, brotherhood, loyalty, righteousness, and faith, and throws into the mix some dry humor and comedic relief. The audience is confronted with romantic love, sure, but also familial and brotherly love. The relationship Clarence has with those closest to him, particularly the characters of Elijah and Barabbas, can be perceived as a man taking advantage of those willing to sacrifice everything for him. And rightfully so, as the only goal is to exploit a “get rich quick” scheme through a method which he believes is nothing but tricks and illusions. However, it quickly becomes more than just a scheme and a case of belief in one’s own power, a belief that the supporting characters hold for Clarence himself even if they know the truth.

(left to right) Alfre Woodard as Virgin Mary and LaKeith Stanfield as Clarence in ‘THE BOOK OF CLARENCE’. Photo: Legendary Pictures/TriStar Pictures

And what the film does so well is carefully expand upon the character of Clarence until he himself unknowingly and subconsciously becomes a believer. A believer in what exactly, we don’t ever really quite know and it’s on the audience to determine what that is in our own perspective. But he’s a believer in something. And one thing is for certain. Clarence serves as a vessel that highlights the good in humanity and the fact that anyone can do the right thing without having to be this mystical or all-powerful being. After all, true power is granted to us through acts of genuine kindness.

But what about this film makes it so off-putting for some? Aside from the fact that it focuses on a made-up character that believes in nothing and acts as a parallel to Jesus himself, there isn’t much. The Book of Clarence is hilarious during the right moments that call for laughter. It is also calm and stoic when it needs to be, and at all times, it is mesmerizing and makes you forget the type of film you’re watching. And as a bonus, the film’s soundtrack will be sure to throw the audience for a loop with a diverse set of Black artists from various genres like hip-hop and Afropop, as well as folk, soul, and jazz.

(left to right) James McAvoy as Pontius Pilate and LaKeith Stanfield as Clarence in ‘THE BOOK OF CLARENCE’. Photo: Legendary Pictures/TriStar Pictures

The Book of Clarence reminds us that at its core, this is a Black film that further breaks down the limitations we previously set for storytelling. LaKeith Stanfield’s incredible dual performance is enough of a reason to watch the film with bonus standouts like Anna Diop, RJ Cyler, and Omar Cy. But whether or not you are religious or care for religious stories, it’s the eccentricity of Jeymes Samuel that reels you in right away. And it’s exactly this that allows for an entertaining film with an engaging and surprising cast, and a story that makes the soul laugh and the heart be filled with hope. 

Samosa Rating:  

The Book of Clarence receives 4 out of 5 Samosas.

The Book of Clarence is now playing in theaters.
Runtime: 2h 9m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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