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LAFF Review: ‘In Reality’ inspires the imagination and revives the heart

Written by: Adriana Gomez-Weston, CC2K Staff Writer

Love in your twenties is like strolling through a minefield, walking a tightrope, or sitting on a faulty seesaw of doom. Sometimes you think you’ve found a romance that will change your life, but it never quite happens the way you’d expect it to. In an ocean the size of New York City, it seems that while there are plenty of fish, more often than not you end up with a net full of disappointment, heartbreak, and worst of all, wasted time. The good thing about failed romances is that they often provide the foundations for great artistic expression. Truthfully, the best thing that can come from heartbreak is a great song, book, and even a movie.

In Reality is a movie parading as a visual diary of a young woman in love with love. Inspired by her real life experience with relationships, director and writer Ann Lupo retells her story of self-discovery in the big city. Nursing a broken heart from an unrequited romance, Ann Lupo channeled her emotions into a film which inspires the imagination and warms the heart. Ann Lupo’s feature debut is an example of what happens when you refuse to let adulthood destroy your creativity. Allowing herself to process her emotions about love and rejection through filmmaking, Lupo crafts a tale that is a charming and whimsical experience. Ann Lupo manages to reach an auteur status on par with Anna Biller as she functions as not only the lead actress, but also director, writer, producer, and editor of her own feature. In Reality combines elements of a documentary, musical, and variety show- truly allowing Lupo to flex her creative muscles.

Prior to In Reality, Ann Lupo gained impressive experience working with the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, director Mark Premo, and Youtube sensation Casey Neistat. While In Reality deputed at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Lupo also secured the top prize for the TikTok Real Short Award. She’s been on a roll for a while now, and shows no signs of slowing down. In the near future, it seems like audiences will be seeing bigger projects from Lupo.

So far, In Reality is doing well on the festival circuit, earning the Audience Award for Best Actress and Best Narrative Feature from the Woods Hole Film Festival, as well as the Best Narrative Feature Award form at the Port Townsend Film Festival. In Reality‘s next stop will be at the Raindance Film Festival in London.

Playing herself, Ann decides to create an autobiographical film centered around her relationship with John (Miles G. Jackson), a love interest who isn’t quite as into Ann as she is in him. Dreamy and refined, John is the textbook definition of a perfect guy, but his greatest downfall is his obliviousness to his charms. John is simply a nice guy who strings Ann along. He continues to enjoy Ann’s company even though he isn’t interested in her romantically. Inspired by the story of her two engaged friends Miguel (Esteban Pedraza) and Adrienne (Olivia Washington), Ann hopes that John will eventually come around. Unfortunately, that never happens.

A film within the film, Ann recounts her journey in and out of love and makes a movie about the process. Believing herself to be impervious to men and their silly games, Ann falls head over heels for John. Like any infatuation, Ann spends a lot of her time obsessing over every detail of the relationship. Ann hashes over her dating woes with her chipper best friend Lallie (Kimiko Glen). While Lallie is her biggest cheerleader, Ann’s obsession with John tests the limits of their friendship. Lallie is there to root for Ann to succeed, but she’s also there to act as the voice of reason as Ann falls deeper down the rabbit hole.

Continuously sabotaging herself over her feelings for John, Ann is forced to reckon with the fact that he doesn’t feel the same way. Emotionally bankrupt, Ann uses art to pick up the shambles of her broken heart, and to make sense of the world that surrounds her. What is it about unrequited love that wrecks even the most strong-willed of women? Even if we’re confident and aware of our worth, why do we need men to make us feel whole sometimes? Ann seems to have a lot going for her for the most part, but John’s disinterest causes her to slip into a state of questioning. The relationship ultimately sucks the joy right out of her and her other relationships.

After hitting rock bottom, Ann turns within herself to get out of the rut. Infusing elements of a Broadway musical, a more glamorous Ann nurtures her own wounds with song and dance. In the film’s most defining moment, Ann learns that she doesn’t need to mold herself to fit into someone else’s narrative. Another lesson is that shit happens, but you can always overcome it.

In Reality reveals that there is no magic formula for romance. However, it does unveil the joy in loving yourself and finding fulfillment in everything you already have in your life. While being loved in return is alluring (and amazing), the greatest love story that you can ever discover is the love you have for yourself. In Reality is less a romantic comedy and more a sign of encouragement for those who haven’t quite found “the one” yet. Whether you have or you haven’t, In Reality is worth a look if you want to feel a little bit better about your reality.