Film Review: Lucky

Kicking the can down Enlightenment Road

I once asked my 80 plus year old granny, ‘Hey nana, what’s it like being in your eighties?’ She replied with a clarity normally reserved for her beloved Ten Commandments. ‘It’s the same as your twenties, you just can’t move.’

It’s often said that things happen in cycles, minutes, days, months, seasons and years. Certainly if you’re old enough, you’ll see strains of fashion being charity shop/wardrobe dived, repurposed and presented as the latest ‘must have’ in Fashion Week around the globe. Never mind an older head looking at said catwalk strut ‘new’, all the while thinking, I wore that in my teens, as it was all I could afford. Ah life eh.

Over the years these moments build up in frequency, and in many aspects of life, there is repetition, habits, good and bad. Hindsight can be a brutal thing where you can momentarily look back and see potential patterns in your life, and not do anything about it, well until time travel is invented. But maybe it was you who was meant to invent it, but got side tracked by that idiotic decision you made. Ah life eh.

There’s a hypothesis I’m currently pondering on, where our youthful memories actually act as the puppet master to our adult lives. Events that we may have even forgotten about, pulling our decision strings, tugging the words out of our mouths and guiding our steps. Maybe for many it’s not an issue, if things are fine it’s been a Riverdance jig of delight, and then we have characters like Lucky played by the unfortunately mortal Harry Dean Stanton, who passed away last year.

Harry was pretty much the age of the character he plays in the frankly stunning movie ‘Lucky’ (2017) directed by first time director, but ridiculously well and deservedly well known actor John Carroll Lynch, in what could be readily described (in my mind) one of the greatest directorial debuts EVER! It has to be immediately added that this has also happened due to a truly incredible script by Logan Sparks (an old friend of Harry’s) and Drago Sumonja, who have captured an immortal perception and awareness of the human condition. It’s set in a contemporary desert small town in Arizona, but Lucky could have been stomping around ancient Greece kicking some clay pottery, or equally hoovering around some Megalopolis in the far future putting after a levitating beverage, his moods, murmurings and malcontents would be exactly the same.

In addition to this, the lines between the character and Harry as a elderly human, knowingly coming to a closure, beautifully blur into one timeless story, indeed the story was written with him in mind and actually mixes up fiction with genuine moments and philosophies from his life. It’s effectively their nana moment, ‘What’s it like being in your nineties Lucky?’.

A boot camp routine has set in, and despite his somewhat intellectual atheistic stance, Lucky has his daily rituals. Gets up, brief exercise to a backdrop of Mexican music on the radio, glass of milk and stomps off into the light of the day. He has his favourite seat in the local diner (church) where everyone lovingly greets the local cantankerous veteran doing his daily crossword with the devotion of a rosary. He even has a lectern at home where he has his book of worship, an enormous dictionary.

Lucky has his town route that’s like a basic model Scalextric set, where he slots right in to a daily path, never swapping lanes, nor going too fast to skid off the corners, and the life laps have seemingly clocked by.

Of course events are never allowed to continue in this singular direction, and intervention comes in the guise of some flashing lights (follow the light?), that trigger a whole new evolving chapter. Lucky takes pride in his self reliance, maybe even with a touch of stubbornness, but that existence is unknowingly nurtured and supported by a caring community, which he is beginning to hopefully release and appreciate, amongst many other things as his health seems to waver.

Despite decades of learning, his words, reasonings and intellect won’t stave off the bodies slow decline. They were his amour, and they served him very well. But they don’t gleam they way they once did, and besides, they weigh too much now, and as events unfurl, piece by piece drops to the floor, the armour is hindering him.

The community is made up of an equally rich quality of idiosyncratic characters (and actual real life friends such as David Lynch and Ed Begley Jr.), every one bringing a brief tale from their own lives, often deeply poignant, wise, adding to the mix of this journey. Even Lynch’s sublime character Howard has an AWOL tortoise called President Roosevelt who is contributing to Lucky’s destination from afar and maybe even parallel, as they both trundle through the desert, searching for what may once have been elusive.

That very richness permeates every single frame, with beautiful cinematography (Tim Suhrstedt), script, direction, acting, pacing, profound humanity and a huge amount of comedy mixed in with simply gorgeous recognition of human frailty, temperament and tenacity, but also the ability for adaptation and evolution, no matter what stage in life one might be at.

Harry’s performance is of the level that you would have to spend a lifetime getting ready for, and even then it might not have been captured. But a great deal of extremely talented and loving people gathered round and created the environment that could potentially land it. And land they did, very much so. This is an incredibly beautiful touching Zen of a movie, that has the profound ability to change the viewer, if they are willing. With detail, subtilty, craft and beauty, Harry gives us the performance of a lifetime from a lifetime, every wrinkle a story that ultimately forms a radiant smile.

Lucky should absolutely be experienced on the big screen, many times, but I’m still very much looking forward to owning it on Blu-ray, where I will watch it again and again for the rest of my life, as each time it will teach you something new. Who knows, Maybe you can’t change the world around you with words, but you can certainly change how you see the world, and in that, the world does actually change. Ah life eh.

10/10 ‘Lucky’ is in cinemas and VOD.

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.