The last film starring Harry Dean Stanton is now on general release. This is the story of Lucky, (Harry Dean Stanton) a man who has survived everything. His quaint daily routines in small-town USA may help to explain his longevity but never explain his story. We see an elderly man living his daily rituals, a wash, morning yoga, cigarette, coffee, walk to the corner shop to buy cigarettes followed by stopping at the local café for the never-ending supply of coffee and time to sit to solve crosswords. Home to unwind and watch some day-time TV quiz shows, a call to a friend to exchange word for the day, followed by an evening visit to the local bar for a Bloody Mary… or two. Repeat. His demeanour often grumpy, somewhat cantankerous, he delivers pithy quips to those around him. At first he appears not to care much about for them, but of course this isn’t really the case.
There’s a difference between lonely and being alone
One day he falls at home, prompting a comical trip to his GP, (Ed Begley Jr) who is confounded at how Lucky is still alive, given his packet-a-day smoking habit. He is lucky. The episode prompts him to reflect more deeply on the meaning of his life and we see how his community responds to him, who are clearly able to see beyond the somewhat grouchy persona on display. Equally Lucky seems able to retain a lightness about himself, that accepts others and seems to find a level of intimacy with them that is both charming and real.
Plan your end
Lucky has a feisty, blunt exchange with Bobby Lawrence, (Ron Livingston) to be honest I cannot remember if he was an insurance salesman or a lawyer, but either way he is attempting to ensure Howard (David Lynch) organises his financial affairs. There is certainly a suspicion that Bobby does not play a straight-hand as Howard now seems to have nobody except his tortoise, Roosevelt, which invokes some mirth and some wonderful metaphors.
Lucky: He’s gone, Howard, and you’re all alone. We come in alone, and we go out alone.
Bobby: That’s awfully bleak.
Lucky: It’s beautiful. “Alone” comes from two words, all-one. It’s in the dictionary.
What do you do with that?
There are some fabulous lines about mortality, but essentially the film is about how Lucky comes to a sense of acceptance, albeit with anxiety, about his end. This is served up in recalled memories of the worst day of his life, a traumatic WW2 memory shared by a fellow vet Fred (Tom Skerritt) who met courage in a 7 year-old girl, “the sort that they don’t have medals for”… and a heart-warming scene for a 10 year-old Juan’s Mexican family birthday party.
Lucky he is indeed, for those on whom he made an impact and those that impressed friendship, or at the very least, a sense of connection upon him. In the final sequence, Lucky exits stage left after a knowing and rather wry wink to camera.
There is something in the movie that resonates with my sense of unvarnished truth. Lucky has his and delivers it without request or warning. I hope that I do not do the same, but fear those that know me best would probably recognise it. Then again, I’m also like Bobby Lawrence trying to guide people to plan sensibly for their end… though I hope without the inferences of being a beneficiary of the Will! As ever, many will have a very different reaction to this film, not much happens over 88 minutes, then again everything happens in 88 minutes.
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