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.
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.
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!