Lucky review: Respected character actor John Carroll Lynch makes his directorial debut with this masterstroke in movie making and acting, particularly from its leading man; Harry Dean Stanton in one of his final roles.

Lucky review
Lucky review

Lucky review by Paul Heath.

Making his directorial debut with this modest, character driven indie is celebrated actor John Caroll Lynch (Fargo, Jackie), a veteran of the big and small screen with over one hundred credits to his name, spanning a three-decade career.

Looking around the web, Lucky’s synopsis is described using just a few words; ‘the spiritual journey of a ninety-old atheist’. Of course, there’s a lot more to this very intricate, relatively short insight into the title character’s very long life, as he goes about his daily routines in a small desert town. Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, Lucky has sadly become more known as one the last films to feature, and indeed be led by acting legend Harry Dean Stanton, who sadly passed away in September of this year.

Though it may not be his last screen appearance – there is another film currently in post-production titled Frank and Ava – it is a poignant one. Parallels will be drawn to the tone of the picture and Stanton’s recent passing, but his resemblance to his character here is surely the only connection. Lucky is an antagonistic, unapologetic being, a soul very much set in his ways, one who is sometimes hostile to strangers though not always uninviting – just if they don’t upset the apple cart in terms of his daily rituals. Stanton plays the role with affecting aplomb, a masterstroke in acting and perhaps one of his greatest performances. Lucky is a man who has lost all his friends, some a long time ago, and he continues to continue on through life and procedures -the five different yoga exercises as soon as he wakes up, the morning walk to the local coffee shop where Barry Shabaka Henley’s Joe is always there to greet and then barrack him, through to his afternoons if front of his favourite game shows whist doing the crossword, bouncing potential answers off an unnamed friend at the end of a red telephone set-up on his lounge’s table.

Lucky review
Lucky review

Then there’s the strangers he encounters both at the café every day – frowning upon public displays of affection from a couple of youngsters sat in his seat, or the warm embrace of a fellow war veteran. Evenings are spent in the bar – the one he hasn’t been barred from – where he constantly threatens to light up his cigarettes on a nightly basis.

Lynch’s film is not a film with a specific synopsis, hence the vagueness of the story outlined everywhere, but a motion picture that Is about character as much as the journey of a weathered man we’re fortunate enough to be welcomed into, albeit for a brief amount of time. Lynch has assembled a group of supporting players, including a very present David Lynch in a very comedic role as Lucky’s odd-ball bar-room friend, an immaculate looking chap apparently being conned by a smarmy local lawyer (Ron Livingston) who is advising him to leave his 100-year-old tortoise his life savings. There are also small appearances from the likes of Tom Skerritt as the army veteran, and Ed Begley Jr. as Lucky’s baffled doctor.


Lucky review
Lucky review

This is a remarkable directorial debut from an already accomplished actor. Amd while a very small film, feels so grand in scale with its well-written characters, a credit to the two writers.

Lucky, the film, is summed up by a slight, fleeting glance from Stanton in the closing moment, a medium close-up where he turns his focus to stare at the camera – just for a fraction of a second – a beautiful but hard-hitting cinematic gut-shot, followed by a couple of moments to digest what we’ve witnessed, as the actor slowly walks off into the distance.

The film may plod for some, but make no mistake, this is a phenomenal piece of work from all involved, the title not just referencing the name of its main character, but the perfect adjective to sum up how blessed we are to have been able to witness it.

Lucky review by Paul Heath at the BFI London Film Festival, 2017.

Lucky is awaiting a UK release.