Adam Morse’s feature debut, Lucid, is an ideas-driven supernatural drama that could almost double as an instructional video for shy boys who’d like to meet girls.
In The Matrix style, it’s got a nerdy guy, Zel (Laurie Calvert) at its centre, an incel gamer whose mother (Sadie Frost) still hovers, concerned that her son isn’t getting out enough, worried that he’s never going to meet a nice girl if he doesn’t maintain normal standards of personal hygiene, even more worried that he can’t look a pretty woman in the eye without going to pieces if he’s got any interest in her at all.
By night Zel has the sort of job shut-ins have – working at a weird car park attached to an exclusive club. And it’s here that he has the first of two meetings that are going to alter his life, with the bullying, thuggish Theo (Cristian Solimeno) who runs the club.
The second is with the oddball boho Elliot (Billy Zane), who introduces Zel to the notion of lucid dreaming. According to this idea, if we enter our dreams with some aspect of our waking mind still operational, we’re able to reshape our personalities while we sleep. The finer details of all this are bundled up in there somewhere, in Elliot’s loquacious theorising, but that’s the gist. Elliot also has a pretty daughter about Zel’s age and… cough… she’ll become significant later.
Let’s call Theo the motive and Elliot the opportunity. Either way, soon Zel has launched himself into the world of lucid dreaming and is swanking around in the odd nightclub, hair slicked back, nice suit, talking to Jasmine (Felicity Gilbert), the hot woman of his dreams etc. This is handy from the film’s point of view because Calvert is a properly handsome dude with a gym-fit body and the baggy gamer clothes he’d been wearing earlier couldn’t disguise the fact. It’s a version of the Hollywood makeover transformation where a perfectly good-looking woman is revealed – ta-daa – to be a perfectly good-looking woman in a sheath dress with a slit up the side.
If the overall angle of attack is still The Matrix – in the alternative world Zel finds a different reality and has a different set of skills – Morse and his DP, Michel Dierickx, have a bit of fun with references to Martin Scorsese (the colours, the gliding camera) and David Lynch (the general dreaminess) in the club sequences.
It’s a neat idea, and it would undoubtedly work a lot better, particularly the fantasy/dream sequences, if there’d been more money available. But some of the plot twists arrive as if run by the German railways, right on time – like the fantasy world and Zel’s daytime existence starting to become interchangeable. Who’d a thunk.
There’s a hint of Christopher Nolan’s debut film, Following, in Lucid, and I’m not just talking about wobbly acting and pacing issues. There’s also a plot similarity – loner caught up in a world beyond his ken – and a determination not to let a small budget get in the way of a big idea. Also, like Following, Lucid does not quite work.
This is a pity because it’s got good things in it: a good leading man in Calvert, some interesting ideas, plus Billy Zane, who delivers the goods as the weird sage and gatekeeper to the alterna-world, and has stopped being irritating since he gave up aiming for the A list (somewhere around the time of Titanic). He gives the whole film a solidity it needs more of.
Still, where Christopher Nolan has gone, maybe Morse can follow. As I write he’s lining up to make Experiment 77, which features Malcolm McDowell. More weird stuff appears to be heading this way.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021