By Mojean Aria | Drama
A lonely man discovers an abandoned dog that gives him a new outlook on life.

James collects electric scooters around Los Angeles for his job, driving around the city in the morning to look for them, swapping them out for freshly charged ones, and retrieving used ones in the sometimes odd places they're left behind. The job isn't idyllic; it's long, tedious work and he sometimes sees the worst of people as he goes about his day. And then at night, he comes home to an apartment filled with scooters, where he lives alone, equally isolated.

But one day, as he pulls out an errant scooter from a tree, he encounters an abandoned dog. He rescues the dog and takes it home, but when his landlord comes by demanding money, James is told the dog has to go. There's only one way to keep a pet at the complex: it has to be a service animal. So James goes about getting the dog certified as one -- one that pulls him into unexpected emotional territory he may not be ready to confront.

Written and directed by Mojean Aria, this deceptively quiet drama begins with an extended sequence of its main character going through his daily routine. Told with no dialogue but deliberate pacing and an eye for telling detail, gesture and expression, we see a reserved, taciturn James go about his job as an electric scooter collector. There's a striking aspect inherent in such work, but it isn't milked for whimsy by the storytelling. Instead, it is mundane, isolating and at times alienating, rendered in a flat yet bright naturalism and framing that emphasizes James's isolation. The job does allow James to traverse many obscure pockets of Los Angeles, but this wide perspective often isn't expansive, particularly when James encounters violence or suffering.

Such everyday brutality wears on James, which suffuses even his home and private life, situated in a cramped, rundown apartment. His routine there is equally lonely, with his only human interaction being harangue and harassment for payment by his landlord. Still, he summons some small degree of compassion when he comes across an abandoned dog and takes her home. The pacing then picks up, particularly when James embarks on a quest to get the dog certified as an emotional support pet (which offers the opportunity for some dry, cynical humor.)

We get the sense that James is already attached to the dog, enough to go about the task of certification with a psychologist. But the session goes in an unexpected direction, particularly as he faces personal questions about his state of mind and heart. The questions are uncharted territory for James, and actor James Aaron Oliver conveys the sense of a man unaccustomed to introspection.

But he must answer the queries to keep the dog. In doing so, Oliver unfurls unspoken depths of feeling, resulting in a knockout of a performance that takes "Lucy" in a powerful direction that's riveting, heart-wrenching and raw. What begins as a slice-of-life character portrait transforms into a truly moving distillation of living with "quiet desperation," and how silent pain, sadness and loneliness build up into depression -- a process so incremental that its bearer doesn't even realize what it is or what is happening. Watching James confront himself, perhaps for the first time, resonates in its evocation of a difficult truth: we all carry burdens of strain and stress, and facing that reality with honesty is keenly painful. But it may be the first necessary step to move out of the shadows, towards something bigger and better.

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