A fitting last leading role in the career of Harry Dean Stanton.


Harry Dean Stanton


Just before he died the British actor Richard Johnson was offered the chance to play a leading role in one of my favourite films of recent years, Radiator (2014), and he gave what may well have been his finest performance. Now much the same thing has happened to a very different actor, the American Harry Dean Stanton who died in September 2017 at the age of 91. The title role in Lucky had been written for him by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja and it provides him with what is virtually a superb swan song although he will also be seen supporting Rico Simonini and Emily Elicia Low in Frank and Ava. It is also notable for marking the directorial debut of the actor John Carroll Lynch and it is remarkable that Lynch has left it so long since on the evidence here he looks to be a born director albeit one aided by the fine work of the film's editor Slobodan Gajic.


Lucky reaches us almost concurrently with another work in which old age is relevant, Faces Places featuring the then 89-year-old Agnès Varda. Although that is a documentary and this is not, Lucky is the kind of quiet  almost plotless piece that will not appeal to all but for those on its wavelength it will prove memorable as a finely balanced study of a man close to death. The film confronts mortality yet also shows us somebody living out his life on his own terms: alone rather than lonely as he puts it, he is yet part of a small town community in which he is a familiar figure. Those living in the town care about him even if he doesn't hesitate to puncture ideas expressed by others whenever he disagrees. There is, too, a welcome unforced humour to be found in this film that ensures that it is not all doom and gloom. Half comic and half serious is the local inhabitant whose prime concern is his long-term pet tortoise that has gone missing - this being a character played unexpectedly but admirably by the director David Lynch.


The film's tone is suitably naturalistic and the casting of the town's various inhabitants is spot on. There's also a good use of music, both that composed for the movie and a couple of songs incorporated including Johnny Cash's ‘I See a Darkness’. The film is not, I think, quite flawless. Given the sense of realism (the   person who suggested that this work recalled the style of Steve Buscemi's 1996 film Trees Lounge was absolutely right), the dialogue occasionally feels a little too heightened and there is one scene reminiscent of David Lynch's style which involves an unheralded switch into stylisation but which may be intended as a dream sequence. There's another point to be made too: Lucky leads to a key scene about facing up to the void which, even if rather set up, comes across as an effective climax and that should have ended the movie. Instead, it continues unnecessarily for another five minutes or so. But I don't want to dwell on these minor misjudgments. As a film about the passing of the years, late life and memories, this is both a great opportunity for Stanton to shine again and also a strikingly individual work of undoubted merit.




Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Skerritt, David Lynch, Barry Shubaka Henley, James Darren, Beth Grant, Yvonne Huff Lee, Hugo Armstrong.


Dir John Carroll Lynch, Pro Ira Steven Behr, Danielle Renfrew Behrens, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, Richard Kahan, John H. Lang and Tom Clay, Screenplay Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, Ph Tim Suhrstedt, Pro Des Almitra Corey, Ed Slobodan Gajic, Music Elvis Kuehn, Costumes Lisa Norcia.


Superlative Films/The Lagralane Group/Divide/Conquer-Eureka Entertainment.
88 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 14 September 2018. Cert. 15.