Lucky is a 90-year-old atheist, who, having outlived his contemporaries, finds himself on a spiritual journey of self-exploration, looking for enlightenment in the face of mortality. Harry Dean Stanton stars as the titular character, surrounded by quirky townsfolk, eking out an existence in a small desert town. These characters include Elaine, a bar waitress (Beth Grant), Fred, an ex-marine (Tom Skerritt), Joe, a diner worker (Barry Shabaka Henley), Dr Kneedler (Ed Begley Jr.), Bobby Lawrence, a life-insurance salesman and attorney (Ron Livingston), and Howard (David Lynch), who loses his 100-year-old tortoise, President Roosevelt.
Lucky is the directorial debut of John Carroll Lynch, and is a magnificent tribute to Harry Dean Stanton, a prolific and legendary actor, who has appeared in over 200 films from the 1950’s to the present day. Beautifully shot, the film pays tribute to Stanton’s life, who, like the character Lucky, served as a cook in the U.S Navy during World War II, before he began his long acting career. This film is the exemplary swan song performance of Stanton, who died September 15th of this year, shortly before the film was released in the US.
Lucky is a moving celebration of life and making meaning, in the face of death and the meaninglessness of existence. A slow meditation on spirituality, the film explores how we deal with the weight of death that each of us carries throughout our life, like a tortoise carrying the shell that will one day be his tomb.
Lucky is a man in defiance of sickness, death and ‘no-smoking’ signs. Stanton’s sombre and decrepit features typify the long, eventful life that compounds itself in Lucky’s character.
The film is overflowing with deeply religious imagery, though the film is not a debate between religion and atheism. Instead, it is an exploration of bleak existence made bearable through human connection. One would not be wrong in wondering if it is God at the other end of the red phone, who eventually stops answering Lucky’s calls. The stark red and green lighting symbolises Lucky’s wanderings towards and away from death and salvation. Lucky becomes, to some extent, a preacher of existentialism, spreading the ‘good word’ to the town’s regulars, debating what to do with the nothing that they have been given.
Loosely plotted, the film ruminates on the idiosyncrasies of life and those who fill it, and reflects on life’s biggest questions, offering few, if any, answers to enlightenment. Perhaps the best we can hope for in life is to be Lucky.
I rate this film 8.5/10
Lucky is playing at the Luna Leederville from November 23rd.