Greetings again from the darkness. It’s the first feature film from Jared Douglas, and as with most dedicated independent filmmakers, he wears many hats in this production: writer-director-producer-editor. Mr. Douglas certainly didn’t take the easy route or shy away from difficult material. Instead, he takes us deep into the dark world of mental illness.
Rather than a peek inside an asylum or mental hospital, we are up close and personal with Lucio and his struggles. Lucio is played by Christian Gnecco Quintero, and our first inclination something isn’t quite right comes when he’s buying diapers at a convenience store. Lucio gets skittish and looks around as if someone is watching or following him (the camera enhances the feeling). He calls Vanessa (Stefanie Rons) to tell her that he’s in danger and he can’t come home to her and their young daughter. Lucio then hits the road … he’s on the run from something or someone we don’t see.
Our eyes are on Lucio nearly every moment of the 84 minute run time. It’s not pleasant to see what he’s going through. Lucio is paranoid to the point of self-destruction. When his car breaks down, a kind stranger named Chris (Dwayne Tarver) takes him back to his ranch cabin. Throughout the film, Lucio flashes the ability to converse with others, but it’s never long before the illness kicks in. Even the charity or generosity of strangers isn’t enough to put Lucio at ease, and the consequences can be severe. His biggest challenge … his biggest hurdle … is himself. Periodic calls to Vanessa provide us the insight to see what a devastating scenario this is for her as well.
“I know you’re out there!” The phantom is all too real to Lucio. His reality is not ours. Cinematographer Neeraj Jain effectively captures the frantic moments and Quintero’s performance relays the urgency of every tick. Mental illness is often overlooked or overplayed in movies, but not so here. There is no comic relief, only the relentless pressure of trying to make sense of the confusion.