Featuring the final performance from Harry Dean Stanton, John Carroll Lynch's quietly poignant western proves the perfect swan song for this enigmatic actor
“You’re old. And you’re getting older.”
The diagnosis could not be simpler. After Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton) takes a fall, the film cuts to him sitting nervously in the doctor’s waiting room and we assume we know what’s coming. He’ll get the bad news, ask how long, and strike out filled with a new lust for life thanks to the shock of finding himself so close to death.
Except there is no shock. The cigarettes he’s been smoking since high school haven’t touched his lungs. The army of illnesses that might have laid siege to his body have failed to arise. He’s in excellent health for a man of his age. Death hasn’t suddenly sprung up in his path, it’s lurking at the end as it always has been; he’s just close enough now to see it a little more clearly.
John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky is an umber-tinted western, complete with wide shots of dusty desert towns and saloons filled with eccentric locals. It’s the kind of movie where everybody gets to say their piece. If we learn a character’s name, chances are they’ll share some anecdote that contains their insight into the ways of the world before they walk back out the door. Life insurance salesmen, war veterans and regular good-for-nothings all chime in to help Lucky process the inevitable, or at least to try.
Their plain-spoken style allows them to talk lyrically about the everyday and plainly about the deepest existential questions. “I’m nothing but I have everything, isn’t that something?” Lines like that only work in certain accents.
Harry Dean Stanton was the man who saw the road to Hollywood stardom, shrugged, lit another cigarette, and kept walking. He went on to become one of the industry’s most beloved character actors and the crankily witty, quietly poignant Lucky is his perfect valediction.
Lucky screened at Glasgow Film Festival 2018 and is released in the UK 14 Sep by Arrow Films