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Lucky: Mesmerising, original, funny, endearing

Spend two wonderful hours in the company of Harry Dean Stanton – and discover the meaning of life

14 September, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky

LUCKY
Directed by John Carroll Lynch
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆☆

AN alarm clock rings, a cigarette is lit. Some worn underclothes hide parts of a body that shuffles out from equally ageing bed sheets.

We watch as a weathered old man puts his fag in an ashtray, some 1940s jazz comes on the radio, and he goes through his morning exercises – 20 repetitions of a series of yoga moves, stretching out the sinews, the ligaments, breathing in and out and working the tobacco-scarred lungs.

Once completed, we watch this man carefully get dressed – a worn leather belt is slipped slowly through the hoops of a faded pair of jeans, cowboy boots are pulled on stick-thin legs, a 10-gallon hat is placed on the head, and then from the gloom and fug of a run-down prefab, he steps into the light of the Arizona desert.

This is Lucky, the man you are about to spend two wonderful hours in the company of, as he goes about his daily routine and chores.

A cigarette, exercise, coffee at the diner, buying a carton of milk, watching TV shows, then off to the local tavern for a Bloody Mary and conversation: this is the world Lucky inhabits, and the one we are politely invited into by director John Carroll Lynch. The results are mesmerising, original, funny and endearing.

He has the air of a weary old tortoise (you’ll have to see the film to know why such creatures have a role to play) and with it comes a pondersome sense of not having much left in life to do, except complete a crossword before bedtime.

The Arizonan town seems to have little going for it in terms of side shows and thrills: but what it does have is a community which has lived together for a long time and has enjoyed the experience.

In one brilliantly written scene (and the whole film is a glorious piece of writing) we meet the proprietors of the saloon. It is a masterclass in understated conversation, with love between two characters seeping in to you, and an insight into what it means to be human writ large.

Above all, it is Lucky who makes this bizarre cinematic experience work so well.

Harry Dean Stanton, who died aged 91 last year, shuffles through with rickety grace. His filmography over the years has included classics such as Alien; Paris, Texas and Escape From New York, but this is an all together different performance – deep, rich, and completely satisfying.

I came out of the screening honestly believing that hidden within it is the meaning of life, if you are patient enough to look for it… yes, it is that good.

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