This is essentially a one-hander for nonogenarian Harry Dean Stanton who beautifully captures the fragility and complexities of old age.
In a tiny desert town, Lucky (Stanton) lives alone and follows a well-worn routine; exercise, dress, walk to the diner, sit in the same seat, coffee with lots of cream and sugar and the crossword. He smokes and doesn’t seem to eat much but is healthy. His view of the world is decidedly misanthropic. He interacts with the people of the town although seems oblivious to any notions of friendship or dependency. When he has an unexplained fall, a visit to his doctor has him contemplating the reality of reaching the end of his life.
Not much happens in Lucky but the richness of the film is in the incidental characters and their stories, each with a message about life and loss. David Lynch as bar mate Howard has an elegant epiphany about letting go. Elaine (Beth Grant) and Paulie (James Darren) have a combative but loving relationship that is stitched around shared stories. Loretta (Yvonne Huff) and Bibi (Bertila Damas) show Lucky simple gestures of kindness.
Lucky shuffles through it all and, with his spare frame, and dogged routine reminds me of my dad in his last years. For him this was also a time for reflection, where he tried to make sense of the worth of his life and come to terms with the closeness of its end. Like my dad, the richness of Lucky’s life is not known to those around him, a history of 90 years squeezed into a few framed photographs.
There is a powerful scene with Fred (Tom Skerritt) which is the trigger in many ways for Lucky’s reconciliation with his place in the world. The resolution is soft and warm and imbued with a genuine pathos for the experience we will all, at some point, face.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.