Israeli director Ari Folman scored big with his 2008 animated film Waltz with Bashir, an introspective portrait of army service that was a critical and commercial triumph. Over a decade earlier, Folman directed his only previous film, Saint Clara, which takes a totally different subject–a Russian child who recently immigrated to Israel with her family–and infuses its title character with the same uneasiness, displacement, and loss as Bashir.
Clara, the film’s protagonist, leaves the city of Chernobyl (the site of a nuclear disaster) as a young child and makes aliyah to Israel. Because of her proximity to the accident, she acquires special powers–she can hear people’s thoughts. Clara learns things that children aren’t supposed to know, whether it’s her parents’ financial troubles or matters of national security.
Elements of a spy movie enter when her school administrators and Israel’s secret police discover what’s happening. But these plots take a backseat to the sad and beautiful story of a girl raised in two cultures who feels alienated from both.