I do not belong to the generation of Dante and Randal , which is the same as Kevin Smith . Personally, I’m closer to Elias , the Quick Stop clerk than Randallhe teases for his religious fanaticism.

But I grew up with Generation X films, I saw them on TV in the 90s, and I’ve always felt their loss with respect to the challenges of love, work, sex, mere subsistence.

The truth is that the boundaries between generations are more blurred than we think, and we too have inherited many of those challenges: simply, Generation X found itself experiencing a transition phase between the (relative) security of baby boomers and the uncertainties of the millennials, moreover personally discounting the illusory well-being of the eighties. Clerks himselfit reflected the disenchantment of those who had come out with a fistful of flies from Reagan hedonism, but each chapter of the trilogy internalizes its author’s present, the existential moment in which it is located. If the first film conveyed the sarcastic vein of a twenty-year-old who works at the convenience store and dreams of the cinema, the sequel had all the warmth of a happy husband and father, now established as an internationally renowned director. On the other hand, Clerks 3 is crossed by a bitter awareness that leaves you almost taken aback, but in line with the recent vicissitudes of Kevin Smith .

It’s been fifteen years since Dante ( Brian O’Halloran ) and Randal ( Jeff Anderson ) bought the Quick Stop, and their lives haven’t changed a bit. For Dante it is a drama: in fact she lost her beloved Becky ( Rosario Dawson ) in 2006, hit by a drunk driver when she was pregnant with their daughter. The aforementioned Elias ( Trevor Fehrman ) works at the shop, while Jay ( Jason Mewes ) and Silent Bob ( Kevin Smith) have transformed the old video store into a marijuana resale. Time seems frozen in the American province: it’s impossible not to feel tenderness for these fifty-year-olds who still dress like 1994 teenagers, stuck in the illusion of an eternal present (like all serial characters, on the other hand). Indeed, the initial feeling is that Smith is unable to leave the past behind. The verbal skirmishes feel gratuitous, the pop culture references sound forced, and the spontaneity of the beginnings seems far away. But it’s just a trap, because the film is about something else.

Kevin Smith suffered a heart attack in 2018, leaving a show in California. His friend Lisa Spoonauer , who played Caitlin in the first Clerks and ex-wife of Jeff Anderson , died in 2017. A near tragedy, and one sadly accomplished. Looking back, the director understands that the eternal present does not exist, and that aging implies both the deterioration of the body and the loss of loved ones, which is accompanied by a new awareness. While literally drawing on his own experiences for the plot ( Becky ‘s death , Randal ‘s heart attack), Smithhe pours into the screenplay the awareness of his own mortality, the same as that of a generation that has passed the age of fifty. Clerks 3 is the memento mori of Generation X, the definitive overcoming of its postponed adolescence, if still there was a need. However, there is no surrender to bourgeois rhetoric, this is not it: near death, Randal does not decide to “make a life” by starting a family or anything like that. Instead, he decides to make a movie in the Quick Stop, and that movie is none other than the original Clerks .

The risk of engulfing oneself is concrete, but Smith does not slip into an ego-referred delirium: the metafictional expedient of the first Clerks in fact becomes a touching way to close a cycle, saying goodbye to those characters who have given him fame, and whom he extrapolated from his real experiences. In short, historical courses and appeals. Cinema is confirmed as the popular art form capable of reworking mourning, exorcising losses, triggering personal and collective catharsis. It is certainly no coincidence that the film is dedicated to Lisa Spoonauernor that the director decides to speak directly with the audience in the end credits: his cinema is a free chat between friends, which translates onto the screen a very confidential, natural way of expressing himself. There is bitterness, but also an openness towards others which distances them from the idiosyncrasies of the past. His strength, net of some directorial babbling and a couple of unmemorable gags, is precisely this: he does not abandon himself to nihilism, but looks to the future with the awareness of passing time. The choice of Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance also goes in that direction , an emo hymn from the early 2000s that helps to blur the boundaries between generations, heralding that alternation of action and melancholy that characterizes the film.

Maturity does not necessarily mean disaffected with Star Wars or other pop idols (which in fact are very present here too), but understanding that the world is not binary, it is not like the black and white of the first Clerks : joy and pain can coexist, they mix in new colors, and are often part of the same experience. Kevin Smith continues to speak the language of the public, regardless of his age.