- Nikki Baughan
- 9 October 2017
LFF 2017: The late Harry Dean Stanton makes a fine focus in John Carroll Lynch's elegant, accomplished debut
An elegant, profound and deeply moving meditation on life and death, Lucky is made more bittersweet following the passing of its star, Harry Dean Stanton. As a eulogy, the film couldn't be more fitting for an actor who played a chameleonic range of characters, but was always resolutely recognisable.
As the eponymous nonagenarian, Stanton is proud, poised and utterly perfect in a role based around his own worldview. Cantankerous yet charming, and often hugely funny, Lucky is a committed atheist who takes a quiet pleasure in life – and, indeed, in causing some mischief (he has, we discover, been barred from one of the local drinking establishments) – while also coming to terms with his own end.
The screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja does little more than follow Lucky as he goes about his well-worn daily routine: a few yoga stretches; coffee in the local diner; a walk around his dusty Western town, whose shuttered buildings resonate with Lucky's own approaching fate; evening drinks with pals (played by a fantastic ensemble cast).
While some moments work better than others – the sharing of stories with Tom Skerritt's fellow army veteran, a hilarious strand involving the missing turtle of Howard (David Lynch) – these interactions all sparkle with warmth and wit. Together, they combine to create a richly textured portrait of a fascinating man.
With his directorial debut, character actor John Carroll Lynch avoids the temptation to introduce any major arc; Lucky doesn't go on any grand journey, and a minor health scare brings no major changes to his behaviour or outlook. With little dramatic movement, Lucky's success rests largely with Stanton's wonderful performance. And, while it may stare death square in the face, the film is a true celebration of a life well-lived, both for its protagonist and its incomparable star.
Screening on Mon 9, Tue 10 and Fri 13 Oct as part of the London Film Festival 2017. General release TBC.