Festivals, Reviews

Cinema One Originals 2019: ‘Lucid’ – Coping Through Troubled Times

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Things aren’t always what they seem in Victor Villanueva’s Lucid. Ann (Alessandra de Rossi) is a lonely woman living in a routine day to day: wake up, comb her hair, cook breakfast, and give her aunt (Peewee O’Hara) the daily insulin dose. Afterwards she commutes to work, punches in, maneuvers her day in a tired daze, and leaves. It’s a typical routine with exception for the fact that when Ann comes home, she escapes into her dreams, where she can rearrange and control the narratives of her day.

Ann is a lucid dreamer. In her dreams, Ann transforms into someone in love, where her crush eagerly asks how her day went and she cheekily jokes about his looks as he listens. Xave (JM De Guzman), another lucid dreamer finds himself walking amongst her dreams, occasionally poking fun at her choices in her own dreams and her inexperience in lucid dreaming. The two strike up a friendship with the occasional romantic subplot that doesn’t get fully explored.

Victor Villanueva’s direction coupled with Natts Jadaone’s writing gives us a glimpse in coping with today’s troubled times. De Rossi and De Guzman, albeit an odd but amusing pair to watch, works wonders in the dream scenes. Though, there’s much to be explored with De Guzman’s character. It is De Rossi’s subtle acting that delivers especially with how subtle she is in expressing the grief and emptiness of Ann’s life.

Lucid is a film about coping. In the state of the now, where there is hyperawareness and an even harsher environment, all we can do is cope and pursue tomorrow. It’s a challenge to do so, considering that it’s easier to slip and fall through any unhealthy coping mechanism to get through the day. Currently, the Philippines alone suffers from a lack of sufficient funds in its healthcare sector, this includes accessibility in providing proper mental healthcare. At most, we only have one psychiatrist for every 250,000 mentally ill patients, far from the ideal ratio of one to 50,000 patients.  

With this ratio and the rise of mental health concerns amongst the masses, it is difficult to address the problem without going into the root causes of it such as urban isolation, capitalism and familial trauma. While the film occasionally lingers on the scars on Ann’s back, the hours wasted in commuting alone, the alienating ways her own family and friends console her in her moments of emotional turmoil, the boss who can barely allow her to properly grieve and her difficulty in connecting with her fellow peers–it gives us all a glimpse on how it motivates Ann to escape into her own head and cope on her own. For it is only in her dreams where she finds the freedom to express her desires and yearnings: love, happiness and emotional security.

While coping is touched upon the film, Lucid expresses the importance of connection. In a world where we scavenge every aspect of our culture that we engage in to find ourselves, all we ultimately want is that sense of openness and seeing through connection. Xave at one point tells Ann that the only thing that keeps him alive is connection—his friends opening up to him while in a comatose state in his waking life with their secrets and grievances provide a source of companionship that helps him hold on.

Lucid doesn’t give us anything, especially that of a satisfying ending but it gives us hope through connection. Lucid dreaming may be one way of helping us control our own narratives, it is the connection we forge amongst ourselves that helps us cope. The knowledge that we are not alone in our own struggles means as much as getting therapy and accessible healthcare. In the end, it is enough to know that Ann finds the person she needs to ultimately open her whole story with and finds comfort in it. And it helped me to realize that despite our self-fulfillment within the chaos of our lives, there’s a gaping hole that we seek to fill in with the help of our peers. When the world seeks to separate us from one another, it is our responsibility to resist and engage in empathy for one another. Victor Villanueva’s Lucid might be about coping but it’s also about seeing one another and anchoring ourselves in the now.

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