- Review by Alison Traynor
Lucky, the directorial debut of John Carroll Lynch, is a thoughtful tearjerker of a drama that will inevitably please universal audiences. The eponymous protagonist is played wonderfully by Harry Dean Stanton. Lucky was the last film in which he acted in before his death last year, making its predominantly mortality related subject matter all the more poignant. A film this good is certainly a befitting send off for such a talented actor. Despite the fact that he was ninety-one when he died, his acting skills were showing no signs of deterioration in this film, in which he takes on the role of a delightfully foul-mouthed, chain-smoking and cantankerous old man that you cannot help but love.
After Lucky unexpectedly falls over, he begins to realise that his death is inevitable and enters a state of inner turmoil as he tries to make sense of his life and the reality of his death from his atheist viewpoint. Basically, think Slacker for the over eighties. It is a film where no action really occurs yet it deals with the most profound of topics through an examination of the minutiae of seemingly mundane daily life. Lucky’s everyday routine is repeated throughout. He does yoga, drinks milk, watches gameshows, goes to the shop or the restaurant, has a bloody mary at the bar and comes home. However, you cannot help but find yourself captivated by the habits of this spectacular curmudgeon.
Beautiful sweeping panoramic shots of the Arizona desert are shown throughout, abundant with cacti, sloping hills and wide open spaces. This sense of magnitude makes everything else seem small and insignificant, likely a nod to the existential themes. This space implies that all of our little lives perhaps mean nothing in the overall scheme of things. We are to inevitably die and realise that, in the words of Lucky “We come here and we go out alone.” Despite the grand scale of the desert, Lucky lives in a small community where everybody knows each other. This depiction of community is deeply touching and emphasises the importance of relationships in the context of our lives.The cast and characters are generally excellent. Lucky’s closest thing to a best friend, Howard, is interestingly played by David Lynch and the film saw Harry Dean Stanton reunited with his Alien co-actor Tom Skerritt for the first time in 38 years.
It is true that Lucky becomes entangled in an unfortunate web of cliches. While this is not ideal, it manages to pull this off without them becoming too negative an influence. To be fair to Lynch, it is difficult to prevent a film that focuses almost entirely on the topic of existential angst from entering the realm of the cliche. While much of this triteness stems from the dialogue, it is admittedly also very enjoyable and at times jarring. A discussion about World War II with another veteran, played by Skerritt, is extremely affecting, as is Lucky’s lamentations on life and death in his local bar, owned by the amusing duo Elaine (Beth Grant) and Paulie (James Darren). There is little subtlety in these discussions. What is meant is always explicitly stated rather than implied, which can be disconcerting but also feels very honest in a certain way. You will definitely find things that you have at some point pondered over directly reflected in Lucky’s barefaced statements, which can be attributed to both the films blatancy and the ubiquity of its themes.