You’ve seen Peter Greene before, as the villain foiled by Jim Carrey in The Mask and most perversely as the hillbilly rapist foiled by Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction. You may not see Greene in the extraordinary Clean, Shaven because most theaters aren’t fighting to show an unsettling movie about a schizophrenic searching for his daughter. That’s a shame. Clean, Shaven, written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan in a stunning debut, is a riveting look at mental illness minus the usual Hollywood sensationalism. And Greene’s committed, compassionate performance will haunt you for years.
Greene plays Peter Winter, a young schizoid father under investigation for murder, unsure of his own actions and desperately trying to make contact with his adored daughter Nicole (Jennifer MacDonald). Avoiding conventional narrative, Kerrigan puts us in the head of a character disoriented by hallucinations and fighting to keep his mind from disintegrating. He hears static and snatches of sounds from a car radio long after the battery has gone dead. At one grisly point, he cuts off his fingernail at the bidding of voices in his head. It’s an irony that audiences who shrug off scenes of human dismemberment recoil from the fingernail removal. Perhaps it’s a tribute to how real Kerrigan has made the character and how vividly and movingly Greene has revealed his grieving heart.