Lucky – Review

Harry Dean Stanton was one of cinema greatest actors. Working from 1956 up until 2017, the intense performer has racked up 204 roles in his career. Moving towards more country and western roles, Stanton had films with David Lynch, Wim Wenders, John Hughes, and more, earning him critical and audience acclaim.

Despite being 92, his loss felt tragic and it impacted the industry. Whilst we are not bereft of exquisite performances such as Travis Henderson in Paris, Texas or Saul in The Last Temptation of Christ, it still feels as though we missed out on so much more.

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However, John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky, one of Stanton’s last performances, is part of a glorious cinematic goodbye to the actor. And, boy, what a swan song it is.

The film revolves around the titular character; an aging man who spends his day following a slow, drawling routine. He wakes up in the evening, does yoga, gets dressed, and goes pottering about the small town he lives in. With a cigarette near permanently gripped in one hand, Lucky ponders about life and death as well as the new world around him.

Written by Harry Dean Stanton’s long time assistant,  it is clear that there is a lot of love and devotion poured into a character clearly written with him in mind. The wry presentation of Lucky’s humour and later life crisis  is brilliant to watch. It’s not overbearing or stereotypical, it beats with sly life and charm that fills up the screen. Harry Dean Stanton, despite being nineties, portrays this character deftly as he tackles more days expecting lesser and lesser of them. Spouting out philosophy’s about the world and stumbling alongside the dusty desert towns, it’s an intimate and palpable performance by Stanton as a cantankerous man hiding secret fears about the great beyond.

The movie is a heart-wrenching look at loneliness in old age. Through characters such as the whimsical David Lynch (yes that one)’s Howard or James Darren’s repetitive Paulie, the film shifts it’s eyes over how time can impact a soul, especially in the shambles of a near ghost-town. Setting the film in a seemingly ageless town, the narrative feels more about self-preservation more so than a gradual move with the times. In shot monologues and profound conversations, the movie unlocks truths about our mortal souls as we shuffle along in existence.

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Lucky is not without its flaws. The harmonica works best when it is being used by Lucky himself. When it’s featured as a score, it overwhelms the movie, causing it to shift tone, moving the atmosphere away from a more meditative state into this almost sitcom-esque skit. There are also moments that falter with stiffled dialogue that don’t feel  natural – despite their great honesty.

There are some great quirks and emotion here to pull the film away from a moroseness. John Carroll Lynch directs this film with a keen eye and a quiet

Lucky is observational, deep, and absolutely warming. And Harry Dean Stanton still stands as one of cinemas greatest.

Lucky is out 14th September! 

Unpopped Kernels: Thoroughbreds (2017) – Review

Debuting a new film is like having a horse in the stables, waiting for him to begin his race (but less barbaric then horse racing…Actually, maybe more so.)  New movies are like a mane event that takes a lot of care and attention to grow. There’s training, practise, and determination to get in the stirrups; ready for it to giddy-up across the big screen. As a rider, or director, there is a a lot of passion when it comes to breeding your film in hopes it makes a pony or too.

That must be how it felt for debut feature director Corey Finley as he brings us the tantalising drama thriller Thoroughbreds.

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The movie revolves around two teenagers, Amanda and Lily, childhood friends who are reunited when the former’s mother bribes Lily to tutor Amanda. Each girl has a history of issues: Lily is currently residing at home for mysterious reasons whilst Amanda has zero emotions, something she is ultimately candid about. Though it is an uneasy meet, the pair grow fond of one another (well, as fond as Amanda can be,) but soon a dark idea and sordid plan starts to wedge itself between them…

Spare me a couple of moments to be a little bit hyperbolic: Oldham superstar Olivia Cooke (a hometown hero,) and the incomparable Anya Taylor-Joy are perhaps the greatest young actresses in the industry right now  and are also becoming memorable scream queens. Put them together in an engaging, debut indie thriller and you’ve got an engrossing depiction of disassociated tween psychopathy. It’s delicious.

Cooke’s role is that of a young woman devoid of feeling which makes her more intriguing. Cooke is clever enough to never mistakenly react, keeping her face sombre and interested like a snake rattling in the grass. Her tone is solemn but her words are electric, tackling society and people in moments and able to see passed day to day masquerades. The actress, seen most recently in equally glorious role The Limehouse Golem, allows Amanda to mimic but ultimately keeps her held back.

Anya Taylor-Joy is great. From The VVitch to Split, she has showcased her skill at doe-eyed heroines caught in a cycle of horror. But as Lily, she is a shape-shifter; overtly polite and friendly one minute to spoilt brat the next. Her life is altered by the presence of Amanda who allows her to be free to express to deepest, darkest elements of her soul – especially in relation to her stepfather. Taylor-Joy can both be emotive and devoid of all feeling when necessarily, making her character more unpredictable. The shift between the girls’ standing in the film – protagonist to antagonist, friend to foe – and the chemistry they have together electrifies the screen.

The movie also has one of the last performances of the late, great Anton Yelchin as a seedy criminal ensnared into their web and his presence here is a reminder of the man we lost so young and soon.

Finley’s work is intense and brilliant. There are masterful shots and scene set-ups here embellished with a unique score by Erik Friedlander. Though the story may not be to everyone’s tastes and it stretches on a little bit too long, Finley has finely tuned his debut to have a ferocious soul underneath with a quietly twisted finale that’ll ultimately engross you.

Thoroughbreds is available on Netflix!