Directed by John Carroll Lynch
Lucky is an independent, 90 year old, outspoken gent living alone in Arizona. His morning activities look pretty much the same every day – morning shave, yoga stretching and a glass of milk before heading to Joe’s diner to settle down with a cup of coffee and his crossword. Life is pretty non-eventful for Lucky until one day he suffers a fall in his home. Coming to the realisation that he’s old, Lucky begins to contemplate his mortality, fearing the unknown of death before finally accepting what will come to us all.
Released in the United States a few days after actor Harry Dean Stanton’s death, LUCKY is a poignant exploration of life from first time director John Carroll Lynch, a man more known for his acting performances in Zodiac and The Founder. Stanton perfectly plays the part of the opinionated protagonist Lucky as the film follows the character coming-to-terms with the idea of death and what exactly it means to himself and to others.
As a person, Lucky is a likeable fellow with a penchant for gameshows, crosswords and cigarettes. He’s often found asking for help with his puzzles, even resorting to ringing others up in the evening and consulting his gigantic dictionary. Though his love of crosswords might seem trivial, it seems to be a driving force of interest in Lucky’s life with his discovery of definitions of terms, such as the word ‘realism’, often providing debate at the local bar he frequents in the evening.
Though he has many acquaintances in town, mixing with the friendly locals and business owners, it seems as though Lucky’s only close friendship is with a gentleman called Howard. Played by director David Lynch, Howard is a lonely old man who’s best friend, pet tortoise President Roosevelt, has escaped his garden and unfortunately is nowhere to be found. Wishing to leave his life savings to Roosevelt in his will, Hector is beside himself with worry for his little friend which he has owned and looked after for decades. Whilst Lucky can appreciate how much Roosevelt means to his friend, he also sees Howard as a prime target for vultures wishing to pray on his loss. Part of Lucky’s grievance with this isn’t just concern for his friend, however, but also a reluctance to accept that he himself has no-one to bequeath his estate to, leading to a confrontation with Howard’s lawyer.
LUCKY is quite a slow moving tale but with a certain purpose about it, not too dissimilar to the work that star David Lynch has directed himself in which the camera is more than happy to linger. What’s different about this film is that it’s not meant to be a nail-biting drama or an edge-of-your-seat piece of cinema. Instead, it tells its story in a very matter-of-fact way, basing itself in reality and allowing the characters to dwell about the situation they find themselves in rather than have a fabricated, fictional answer for everything. There’s no gloss to be found and Harry Dean Stanton appears to bare all as the character of Lucky. Watching the movie, it was as though I was witnessing the bleak reality of someone elderly coming to terms with their imminent demise. It’s not morbid but is a little emotional to watch but it connects on such a level that you start to appreciate life for what it really is. When we first see Lucky, following his daily routine, he’s acting without a care in the world and only after his brush with the kitchen floor does it begin to dawn on him that his life is reaching its conclusion. All the emotions that come with this realisation flood to the surface. Denial, fear, worry and then, finally, acceptance and enlightenment. Harry Dean Stanton goes through them all as we viewers are taken along for the ride.
Actor John Carroll Lynch brilliantly showcases his skills in his directorial debut. Stunning shots of the dusty, dry Arizona landscape emphasise the searing pangs of reality that descend upon Lucky. The close-knit community and Lucky’s isolated ranch bring both a closeness and a loneliness to the story. As Lucky says, we arrive in and leave this world alone but we can live life and experience its joys, hardships and sorrows through the company of those around us.
Serving as an emotional farewell to one of the finest character actors that has ever graced our screens, LUCKY is a moving swansong that will more than pull at your heart strings.