Film Review: Lucky

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Director: John Carroll Lynch

15 | 1h 28min | Comedy, Drama | 14 September 2018 (UK)

RATING: ★★★★☆

A touching, whimsical shaggy-dog salute to an acting legend in his twilight years, John Carrol Lynch's Lucky is a quiet and quirky tribute that invites you to bring all your knowledge of Harry Dean Stanton's life and carer to the experience of watching him potter about an isolated Southern United States town as the titular character. Lucky is a gruff, wire-thin 90-year-old atheist who has out lived and out smoked all of his contemporaries. A creature of habit whose daily routine - yoga in the morning, a cup of coffee at 9am in his favourite seat in the local diner (woe betide you take it) followed by a trip to the grocery store to stock up on the two essentials of milk cartons and cigarettes- you could set a watch to. Lucky's pinched, wrinkled and haunted-looking face is like a ancient map of some mysterious land, but the man himself has little interest in behaving like some mystical old wizard dishing out advice, though he appreciates the odd discussion on whatever word has stumped or intrigued him in the weekly crossword. Nor is he allowed a great deal of onscreen dignity: Stanton's frail, wiry body is frequently on display to us in various unflattering underwear choices (and yoga stances), and his strained face betrays the effort it takes to move his joints now in his ninth decade.

But Stanton, who sadly passed on shortly after completing this film, was never an actor who gave the impression he needed to be liked, so this sour/sweet framing makes perfect sense. He just liked working, and thus we have a admirably long filmography packed with outsiders, grifters, loners and struggling working men. Stanton might have been in the background more than the fore in most of his film career (notable exceptions being Paris, Texas) but he never blended into the furniture, and his choice of roles and collaborators (David Lynch) gave the impression of a man on his own radio wavelength and sort-of happy for things to stay as such, or maybe accepting things could never be any other way. Lucky, as portrayed by Stanton, feels like a sort of collage of all those experiences and roles, as if Lucky himself might have lived all those character's offbeat lives. There was always a sense of admirable persistence to Stanton too, one which is reflected in a meta sense in Lucky's 'gotta keep truckin'' attitude. That being said, one thing I did appreciate about Lucky was how the screenplay and Stanton's elegiac performance hint at self-doubts, sadness and regrets that lie unspoken underneath a surface of unrepentant 'zero fucks given' gruffness. If there is one thing Stanton was always good at conveying, even when younger, was WEIGHT. Not physical weight (the guy looked like he lived purely off cigarettes, which he unrepentantly chuffs away on throughout this swan song), but the weight of decisions taken or not taken, people loved and lost, and fortunes won but a minute later thrown away. Adios, Harry Dean.

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Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.