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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Canadian Film Review: Lucid (2005)

* * *

Director: Sean Garrity
Starring: Jonas Chernick, Callum Keith Rennie, Michelle Nolden, Lindy Booth

If you’ve ever wondered what you’d end up with if The Sixth Sense and Vanilla Sky had a baby, this might be the movie for you. Lucid is a technically solid and well-made mystery/thriller, albeit one that tips its hand a little too early. That being said, even if you can put the pieces together before the film intends, you can still appreciate the way that writers Sean Garrity (who also directs) and Jonas Chernick (who also stars) have constructed their story.

Joel Rothman (Chernick) is a therapist with a plethora of problems: his wife has left him, his 9-year-old daughter doesn’t understand and has taken to sleep walking, roads prove to be hazardous whenever he’s behind the wheel, he’s convinced that he hears cursing in his daughter’s cartoons, and he’s suffering from insomnia. He’s a therapist in name only; his job is to discharge patients to other doctors. When his boss informs him that he’s being transferred from Winnipeg to Gimli, he comes up with a way to stay by insisting that his latest trio of patients is in need of his assistance. His three patients – Victor (Callum Keith Rennie), Chandra (Michelle Nolden) and Sophie (Lindy Booth) – are all showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They’re suffering from delusions, unable to distinguish reality from dreams, convinced that they’ve been encountering “repeaters” – people who seem to replicate so that you see them everywhere, sometimes twice in one place. His boss warns him that all three have the potential to become violent, but Joel is certain that he can help them, even as the situation begins to spiral out of control.

Victor is convinced that he, Chandra and Sophie are the objects of a mass conspiracy and that Joel is either part of that conspiracy or another victim. Joel struggles to convince Victor, who is becoming increasingly violent, otherwise while also trying to keep Sophie from committing suicide, and trying to keep his daughter from wandering away in her sleep. Things come to a head in a big way when all the mysterious occurrences in the story are solved one by one and Joel realizes that he himself is the key.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this movie. In certain respects this is a story that it very effectively told – the screenplay is tightly constructed and unwinds itself at a quick pace – but certain choices made by the filmmakers severely detract from it. I’m thinking in particular of the film’s prologue, which finds Joel’s wife and daughter busting him with another woman. At worst, the inclusion of this scene at the beginning of the film gives a lot of things away; at best it tips the viewer off that something is very off-kilter in Joel’s life and that his point-of-view can’t be entirely trusted. This scene plays out again at the end as a means of explaining things and the film itself would be much better if it only played at the end, rather than acting as bookends.

The relationship between Joel and his three patients also presents something of a problem, depending on your perspective. What these three people are, or are not, is left open to interpretation which some viewers will like and others will find maddening. Personally, the openness is one of the things I appreciated about the film because I think it adds dimension to the story. Overall, despite its problems, I think this is a fine film – a genre film to be certain, but one of higher than average quality.

1 comment:

bookguy said...

A more intelligent Canadian Sixth Sense. I'd rate it a 3.8 out of 5.