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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘Lucy’

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman | @CinemaInFocus |

3 Stars — Challenging

What do we really know about the human mind? In the last few hundred years of scientific history, or the last few thousand years of recorded history, our understanding of the mind has given us a vision of a remarkable tool beyond anything we could imagine or create.

In Lucy, we are challenged with our own capacity to even understand what makes up matter in the universe, let alone how the mind has the capacity to “know it.” If you accept the notion that we have been evolving for 13 billion years since the “big bang” brought forth our cosmos, then it might be that we will have to wait another 13 billion years before we will have reached a point of true understanding. In some ways we are no more than a caterpillar trying to fathom how a human thinks.

Lucy is not a documentary on the mind, but rather a tale of evil men trying to manipulate the sale of drugs that affect the mind. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman who makes bad choices in men and finds herself manipulated by a date to deliver a package to a drug kingpin on his behalf. She balks at the idea, but ends up being forced into what appears to be a simple exchange.

Needless to say, what she discovers changes her life forever. Within minutes her boyfriend is eliminated and she is face to face with a vicious Korean drug lord named Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) and his henchmen. Jang brutally eliminates anyone who gets in his way. In fear of her life, Lucy agrees to transport a new drug to Europe.

Unfortunately for Lucy, she ends up ingesting the new drug, which has the ability to stimulate the mind’s capacity to function. Without spoiling the story, the premise is that mankind only uses 10 percent of its brain, and this drug will allow a person to increase that capacity. What happens next is that Lucy is in a death spiral that will both accelerate her demise and increase her brain capacity to 100 percent. What happens over the next 24 hours completes the journey.

On the positive side, the leading expert in brain theory is Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a man who sees the brain’s potential from a straight-forward, if not cold, set of evolutionary circumstances. Lucy reaches out to him after reading his entire body of work in a matter of minutes. Her hope is that he can learn something from what she is experiencing, and she has little time to do it. When Lucy’s journey is completed, his will be just beginning. What Lucy discovers is a remarkable and intricate connection of being in the universe that is well beyond science to describe. It is the prose of the supremacy of all being.

Whether you see this film as a murder mystery or a book on theology, each viewer will have to decide what they learn from it. What we do know is that our capacity to understand the universe is woefully inadequate on a scientific level, even though we pride ourselves on our superior intellect. It reminds me of the time that one of my children, at the age of 3, told me how they now understood how everything worked. All you could do is smile and think, you are cute in your emerging innocent childlike world, but someday in the future you will know.


» The Decade of the Brain has now been followed by the Decade of the Mind, from 2012 to 2022. Do you believe we will understand what the mind is in the next eight years? Why or why not? How do you think the mind and the Source of All Being are related?

» Often our advances in science are used by people for making money with little thought of the harm they might do. What do you think can be done to protect ourselves from such greed?

» The belief that mind could control matter requires us to see all things as connected. Do you believe there is a connection of body, mind and spirit, or are we living in only a material world?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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