Directed by: #AdamMorse
Written by: #AdamMorse
Adam Morse’s 2018 science-fiction thriller Lucid follows a young, blundering car-park attendant named Zel (Laurie Calvert), whose reality begins to fracture as he finds himself drawn into the hypnotic world of lucid dreaming. Set in the not-so-distant future, Lucid’s environments are vivid and beautifully populated, showcasing strong and diverse performances from a cast which is spearheaded by a suavely disheveled Billy Zane in the role of Zel’s dreaming mentor. While the story doesn’t peak much past an initial interest in this film’s reality, the sheer excellence in world-building cannot be overlooked.
The majority of this world-building is achieved through the incredibly strong set design on display throughout the film. Environments are loaded with detail and stylized set-dressing, perfectly toeing the line between a strong sense of setting and an overly cluttered shot. Deep reds and blues are expertly used to highlight change in mood and tempo, with striking use of practical lighting causing this film to have a somewhat watered-down Blade Runner aesthetic. The futuristic technology feels grounded in reality: a functional take on our own modern electronics instead of some unfeasible level of science-fiction, something which would have taken away from the general believability of this piece.
Overall, the performances from this varied cast are strong, with leads Calvert and Zane complimenting each other in their polar opposition throughout their many one-on-one scenes. Calvert’s performance is disarmingly awkward, with an almost Eddie Redmayne-esq mumbled delivery that lends a shy attraction to the character, rather than being too socially uncomfortable to watch. Zane on the other hand gives a gentle, soft spoken, yet alarmingly confident performance which earned him a Gold Movie Award for best actor in 2018. Together, these two leading men fight to bring life to what is often painfully on-the-nose dialogue, and generally rushed emotional beats.
Stylistically speaking, Lucid is beautifully shot and capably directed, with dazzling work from cinematographer Michel Dierickx as he captures the neon-lit alleyways and vibrantly strobing clubs through which Zel stumbles. There are hints of Ari Aster’s sensibilities throughout, as if the photography of Hereditary had found itself in the color scheme of Altered Carbon. And while there are odd choices in focus and forced perspective (whole scenes where Zane is in soft focus), the craftsmanship on display over the short run-time is stunning to behold.
However, in the third act this lucid dream needs a wake-up call. With the intricate set-up of the world, and the surprisingly deep development in character, Morse has prepped his film for a promising finale. Instead what we receive in the end is little more than a half-hearted stumble to the credits, causing this film to feel more like a pilot-episode than its own stand-alone narrative. A medium within which this piece could have thrived would have been in an anthology series such as Black Mirror, where it could have allowed itself to live more within this world it has constructed without the need to create an entire arc necessary for a feature film.
Nonetheless, what audiences receive is a colorful, attractive—albeit unfulfilling—look into a smart and unique concept, with excellent performances to compliment the creative world-building by the cast and crew of Lucid.