Director: John Carroll Lynch
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Skeritt and Barry Shabaka Henley
Lucky is a very melancholic, sombre, and sweet look at old age and death. Lucky, played by Harry Dean Stanton (Twin Peaks, Alien and Cool Hand Luke) in his penultimate role, is a 90-year-old stuck in his routine. That’s how we are introduced into the film, slowly through one day in his life. It moves very slowly through each moment of the day, from his yoga exercises to his nightly visit to the local bar. It’s on the second day when the main theme of the film makes itself known. After having a fall, and the doctor’s only reasoning being that Lucky is old, he is forced to face his own mortality and existential dread. Early in the film the word ‘realism’ is given a dictionary definition while Lucky is playing a word game with his friend over the phone. It’s through this that the film tells us what it is about. It’s about accepting the inevitability of death, understanding it and dealing with it head on.
On top of this, the film deals with the ideas of alienation and belonging. Lucky doesn’t have any family and spends most of his time alone. He says there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, but that Venn diagram starts to feel like it overlaps more and more as the film carries on. In the first day, when Lucky is getting his coffee, there is a wide shot showing how out of sync Lucky is with the people around him as they move quicker than he does. It’s subtle, showing that the world has left him behind and he isn’t going to be catching up. The party sequence in the second half shows him feeling alienated from those around him. Instead of letting this define him and accepting that this isn’t for him to fit in with, he decides to join in and start a sing-a-long. It’s a really sweet moment of choosing to enjoy life.
Harry Dean Stanton, a long-time collaborator with co-star David Lynch (Director of Twin Peaks, Inland Empire and The Straight Story all which Stanton acted in), gives a showstopper performance as Lucky. It’s powerful, captivating, and compelling. He is the emotional weight of the film, and it wouldn’t work without such a stunning performance. It would be so easy for this film to become boring. We are essentially following around a 90-year-old as he goes about his day-to-day life. It’s Stanton’s performance that brings out the best parts of the small moments and connects with the audience in an emotional way.
Next to Lucky is Howard, played by Lynch. A man who has one love in life, his pet tortoise President Roosevelt. He has escaped and Howard spends most of the film wishing he would come back, while at the same time praising Roosevelt for his daring escape. The tortoise is a hundred years old and as the pet shop owner explains, can live a hundred more. It’s reflective of the world around Lucky, it’s been here before him and will remain after him, but Howard doesn’t see this as something negative. He spends time writing a will out to ensure that Roosevelt is looked after in the future. Lucky on the other hand is more downbeat, taking a more nihilistic approach, not setting the time on his coffee maker showing that he doesn’t see the point of doing something now that will benefit the future. The whole cast is great and the moments in the bar with the whole group are fantastic and the stand out scenes.
Lucky is an amazing film. It’s very slow and sombre and gives its themes time to breath. Director, John Carroll Lynch (Not related to David Lynch, but did play Twisty the Clown in American Horror Story) brings to life a story that could have so easily fallen apart. As director, he brings out great performances from everyone. It may not bring tears to your eyes, but it is still emotional and a captivating exploration of the end of a life. Stanton’s performance is exceptional and this is something that is both thought provoking and life-affirming.