Harry Dean Stanton delivers a raw, honest and magnetic performance in John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut LUCKY
To be honest, if it wasn’t for Harry Dean Stanton, I probably would have skipped the opportunity to review LUCKY. The synopsis for John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut which follows the spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist seemed like a bit of a tough watch. Yet behind this seemingly conventional story is something rather special.
Living alone in a small desert town in Arizona, LUCKY follows the daily life of a grouchy 90-year-old veteran (named Lucky) with no kids or immediate family to speak. Lucky’s life revolves around his daily routine of exercises, crossword puzzles, TV gameshows and drinks down at the local bar with his friends until one morning, Lucky takes an unexpected fall in his home. Despite being given the all-clear by the Doctor, the thought of fading into the ‘abyss of nothingness’ begins to trouble him and Lucky is suddenly forced to consider his own mortality.
While there’s not really much going on plot-wise in LUCKY, the film certainly has a lot to say. Unlike other films in which characters who are faced with their own mortality usually seek solace in reconnecting with loved ones or ticking items off a bucket list, Lucky seeks comfort in his routines. It is this simple premise that unpacks so much emotion and you find yourself thinking about this diverting and quaintly philosophical tale it long the credits have rolled.
The success of the film undoubtedly lies in the very capable hands of the late Stanton who embodies Lucky wholeheartedly. Scriptwriters Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja apparently wrote the part with Stanton in mind and even went as far as embellishing their handiwork with autobiographical aspects from Stanton’s life and career. The result is a raw, honest and magnetic performance which is both funny and heart-breaking.
The supporting cast is equally strong, all contributing their own little moments to Lucky’s journey. The stand out here is David Lynch as Howard, Lucky’s mild-mannered drinking buddy whose pet tortoise President Roosevelt has gone missing. Lynch and Stanton make a great onscreen duo, as they bicker about whether Howard’s pet truly planned his escape and it is these surrealistic moments that provide a reprieve from the film’s more dramatic qualities without watering them down.
Yet, while Carroll Lynch’s directorial eye is often light and unobtrusive, the lack of dramatic developments in the plot means the film has a tendency to plod along at times and the long wades of silence may become tiresome for some. Ultimately, this is a film that will be interpreted and enjoyed differently by everyone who watches it, winning some over wholeheartedly while frustrating others.
That said, considering its relatively short 88 minute run time, this subtly elegant film boasts some very poignant moments, most notably the final scene in which Lucky breaks the fourth wall to give us a final quick smile before shuffling off into the distance – a visual representation a man coming to terms with life itself.
Unassumingly, magical and unexpected, LUCKY is a deeply moving and comedic character portrait and a strong directorial debut from Carroll Lynch. More importantly, it is a fitting tribute to one of America’s greatest actors and a wonderful ode to Stanton’s talents and storied career.
LUCKY is released in UK cinemas and on demand from 14 September 2018
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.