(Distributed by Magnolia Pictures; Image Downloaded from BFI April 16, 2020)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on April 16, 2020)
Release Date: March 11, 2017
Runtime: 1hr 28m
Director: John Carroll Lynch
In a slight opposite of the previous review (Big Time Adolescence), this is now a look at an ending-of-life dramedy. The final role of character actor Harry Dean Stanton (The Green Mile), he stars as Lucky, a 90-year-old existentialist living a routine life of doing yoga, watering his plants, going to the local diner, and ending his evenings at Elaine’s Bar. Day in, and day out. There’s nothing necessarily exciting about its plot, and that’s somewhat the point.
Lucky is unusually healthy for his age, continuing to smoke a pack of American Spirits against his doctor’s wishes (although the doctor admits in his luck, taking them away may do more harm than good) and keeping a fairly sharp mind by doing crossword puzzles. In a moment that shouldn’t come up as out of the ordinary to the audience is his pondering over the seven-letter word, realism. “Realism is a thing now,” he states as he looks its definition up in the dictionary.
Realism becomes part of the film’s existential theme, with Lucky perceiving it, along with the truth, as being perceived only through the eyes of one person in how they see reality. At the end of it all, his thoughts on death are like everyone else’s at any age, young or old, as he mentions that he’s scared of “nothing.” The movie spends time focusing on the thoughts of the old man, knowing he could go at any time, and going through the process of a seemingly empty passing.
In a poignant scene that I won’t spoil, Lucky begins looking at the meaningless definition of death, and ultimately the universe a place where no one is in charge, and everyone dies. His solution? Smile. A minor B-plot that at first seems to have nothing to do with the main story, later gives the audience more of a chance to reflect on what their thoughts of the afterlife is. A tortoise named President Roosevelt has gone missing, with another old man at Elaine’s sorry he cannot find it, even discussing with a lawyer (Ron Livingston) that he would like to will his wealth to the missing tortoise.
The tortoise symbolizes a sense of growing old, and how it may have a mind of its own, in escaping from its owner, and the fact it will likely outlive the residents of the small Colorado town for another century. It will grow old too, eventually go to the same place as those people. In Lucky, everyone in their own way is afraid of going into eternal oblivion, as is nature’s way of biological beings unable to comprehend what could be going back to nothing. The messages are many, not a single one can be picked out of the pile to say “this is what Lucky is about,” and instead, it gives us a chance to reflect on our own lives, and how we may live the next few minutes, or the next several decades.