A quiet yet daring piece of filmmaking, John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut Lucky is a character study of an old man whose sudden brush with mortality has him re-evaluating his life in a truly unique way.
A lifelong smoker and a bit of a curmudgeon, Harry Dean Stanton’s Lucky is an unlikely charmer and yet he’s a beloved member of his small, dusty, desert town. Lucky is a fitting name; in his early 90s he is able to care for himself, live alone and maintain his own routines without assistance. He wakes up, has a cigarette and does a spritely yoga routine. He makes coffee and watches game shows before getting dressed and going into town where he wastes hours sipping coffee and working on a crossword puzzle at the local diner. In the evenings he spends his time at the local bar, indulging on a Bloody Mary and cavorting with the other lonesome bar flies. While it might not be thrilling, life for Lucky is just fine. That is until a sudden fall forces him to confront his own mortality. Something that, as a nonagenarian, everyone seems to expect him to be ready for. A man in his forties or even seventies might treat this brush with mortality as a crisis, a wake-up call, but in Lucky’s case it’s too late for change or at least real change. Despite not living a conventional life and meeting the expectations of others, Lucky seems to have lived the life he was meant to, so why is he so frightened now by death?
Lucky is the final big screen performance of Harry Dean Stanton and a bittersweet finale for the accomplished character actor. In a leading role about the fragility of life, as a character whose life mirrored his own in parts (both were Navy cooks on a USS LST during the Second World War), surrounded by actors he’s had long lasting relationships with (David Lynch, Ed Begly Jr. and Tom Skerritt), it’s no wonder Stanton shines in Lucky.
This portrait of an atheist finding solace in the unknown is brought together beautifully by John Carroll Lynch. Lynch is a popular character actor who had an impressive career in front of the camera in dramatic and comedic roles (like many of his cast members) and his deep understanding of character and craft shows in his directorial debut. Grumpy old men have always been a well-liked trope in cinema, but there’s something more to Lucky. Something far more endearing and not at all clownish. He’s someone you’re going to want to spend an hour and half getting to know.
Reviewed by Vithiya Murugadas.