John Carroll Lynch’s wonderful, poignant Lucky is a fitting farewell for brilliant actor Harry Dean Stanton.
I should be so...by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Although Lucky, the film and the man, can be drily funny, at times it is almost too poignant. In his penultimate film role before his death last year at the age of 91, Harry Dean Stanton is Lucky, a dogged eighty-something coming to a solitary accommodation with ageing and death.
Lucky lives alone in a tiny desert town in Arizona/California near the Mexican border. He keeps to a rigid daily routine: exercises (in his longjohns that mercilessly reveal his withered body), chain smoking, the store, watching game shows on TV, the town’s diner for lunch and the same bar in the evening for a ‘bloody Maria’. There he socialises with an almost equally aged motley crew that includes a deadpan performance from director David Lynch (no relation to the director) as Howard, the owner of an escaped tortoise – a slow-moving creature full of surprises that might very well stand for Lucky himself.
Lucky is self-sufficient, resourceful and sociable. As an ex-navy WW2 veteran, his name is full of irony. Like the desert that surrounds him, his life is pared back to the minimum, yet he keeps on keeping on. Nothing much really happens except the minutiae of daily life. And yet – invited to a Mexican neighbour’s birthday party, out of, it seems, nowhere Lucky sings a rendition of Spanish song so faultless that a hush falls and the mariachi band joins in. It’s a transcendent moment that would move a heart of stone.
Lucky is a wonderful swan song for a brilliant actor in a late-career-defining performance, 33 years after Paris, Texas, that’s totally gripping and quietly very moving.
Lucky screened at the 61st BFI London Film Festival and is released on 14 September 2018 in the UK.