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Lucid at TIFF

Lucid must have seemed like a great idea at the screenwriting stage. As a finished film, it shows one of those classic disconnects between theory and practice (pre-production and production). The film seems to be predicated upon the belief that the audience cannot possibly guess its "twist" before the film deigns to tell us; more accurately, it is probably founded on the assumption that its audience will take everything that is put on screen at face value, simply by virtue of that it is on screen. That's a pretty massive error in judgment. The only way to really hide in plain sight like this is to make sure that what you're putting on screen makes absolute logical sense, so that we can't possibly guess that what we're seeing might not be real... and unfortunately, there are a few too many elements of Lucid that scream "TWIST!!!" long before the film gets around to admitting to it.

The result is a very large chunk of the film (say, about 60%) where we have already figured out what is going on, but where the film is still coyly attempting to mislead us. That makes for a very annoying portion of film. This is a shame, because the other parts - the introductory twenty or twenty-five minutes, and the last fifteen minutes or so - are actually rather enjoyable. Lucid isn't really a bad movie; it's just badly conceived.

We initially see our leading man, Joel (Jonas Chernick, who co-wrote the script with director Sean Garrity... and it shows, in the earnest dedication to the arc of Joel's character), caught in a graphic sexual tryst at the family cottage, by his wife and young daughter. Joel's a therapist of some sort, and while trying to put his life back together post-crisis (his relationship with his daughter being the particularly sticky point), he takes on a trio of new patients. Sophie (Lindy Booth, a Canadian Lauren Ambrose) is a druggie. Chandra (Michelle Nolden) is a delusional hypochondriac. And of course there's the violent wing-nut Victor, who, because this is a Canadian feature film, is played by Callum Keith Rennie, who by law must appear in every Canadian feature film in which Sarah Polley does not appear.

Things start to unravel as Joel begins to get muddled up in his patients' lives, all of whom are having increasing difficulty separating waking life and dream life - a problem that also seems to be afflicting Joel's daughter, but in reverse. Joel himself is an insomniac, which can't be helping matters, and when you throw this many people who are potentially sleepwalking through existence together in one place without acknowledging the improbabilities of such a grouping, you're getting into pretty hefty screenwriting trouble. Besides, all the little "clues" as to what's really going on (an impossible answering machine message, a daughter with a predilection for running into traffic, an elevator that won't open) are hardly subtle.

Nevertheless, the film wraps up rather neatly, thanks in large part to workmanlike performances from the lead actors, which make the maximum effort to sidestep the inherent difficulties of playing characters under these circumstances. Director Garrity's use of camera is loose and effortless, which keeps the film from becoming too bogged down in itself, even when the tone seems to be shifting wildly from comedy to pathos within a single scene. Visuals are well-managed without being obtrusive, adding edge to the multitudes of insomniac sequences.

It must have seemed like a great idea, all right, but underestimating an audience is a dangerous business. Lucid might be better consumed when drowsy.


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