Empire (UK) - - CINEMA - Ver­dict Lucky is a pro­found, wry, slip of a movie car­ried by Stan­ton’s mov­ing per­for­mance. it is a fit­ting cur­tain call; one of amer­ica’s great char­ac­ter ac­tors might just have saved his best for last. Will lawrence

di­rec­tor John Car­roll Lynch cast Harry Dean Stan­ton, David Lynch, Ron Liv­ingston, Ed Be­g­ley Jr,

Tom Sk­er­ritt, Barry Shabaka Hen­ley, Yvonne Huff, Beth Grant

Plot An old man ap­proach­ing his end of days lives a loner’s life in a small desert town. Af­ter suf­fer­ing a fall he fears he must come to terms with the fact that he is not the mas­ter of his own fate.

Harry Dean Stan­ton is Lucky. no, he re­ally is Lucky. this hazy, wind­ing desert zephyr of a movie from ac­tor-turned-di­rec­tor John Car­roll Lynch (you likely know him best as norm Gun­der­son from Fargo) is drawn from the life of its late lead­ing man. the de­tails of the epony­mous char­ac­ter — Lucky is un­mar­ried, he served as a cook in the navy dur­ing WWII — mir­ror the minu­tiae of Stan­ton’s own ex­is­tence.

one of the two screen­writ­ers, Lo­gan Sparks, was an old friend, and he and co-writer Drago Su­monja lo­cate Lucky in the same dusty, desert hin­ter­land through which Stan­ton strode in his most cel­e­brated star­ring role, Paris, Texas.

It tells the tale of a 90-year-old man who lives on the cusp of a small com­mu­nity from which he (in­cor­rectly) con­sid­ers him­self sep­a­rate, and on the very precipice of this mor­tal coil. they craft the script as a love let­ter to the man and to the ac­tor.

and what an ac­tor. this is a slen­der nar­ra­tive, a story de­fined by con­ver­sa­tions and in­tro­spec­tion. there is no ma­jor drama — a tor­toise is lost, some­one has a party, Lucky wants to smoke in­doors — so the film lives or dies by Stan­ton’s per­for­mance. not sur­pris­ingly, it brims with vim and vigour, much like Lucky him­self, the com­edy and tragedy etched upon that sand­blasted vis­age, each mo­ment writ­ten in the lines that gouge his face like desert ravines. Lucky is a man as prickly as a saguaro cac­tus and as un­for­giv­ing as the land­scape they fur­nish. and yet such is Stan­ton’s nu­ance and the depth of his pro­fi­ciency, we, like the towns­folk he es­chews, can’t help but wel­come him into our hearts.

When Lucky’s self-suf­fi­ciency is chal­lenged by a fall, and fear of the end creeps into his life, Stan­ton soft­ens his char­ac­ter, bring­ing down his guard to re­veal his frailty. His song in Span­ish at a friend’s fi­esta, when he em­braces a broader friend­ship, will bring a lump to your throat. the sup­port­ing cast — led ex­pertly by Stan­ton’s old buddy and di­rec­tor David Lynch, who plays his tor­toise-lov­ing friend Howard — cap­ture per­fectly the town’s frus­tra­tion with, and its fond­ness for, this sin­gu­lar old man.

First-time di­rec­tor John Car­roll Lynch has shaped a sen­si­tive med­i­ta­tion on the art of dy­ing, of ac­cept­ing our fate and act­ing ac­cord­ingly, and his el­e­gant shot com­po­si­tion re­veals the beauty and the wild­ness of Lucky’s en­vi­ron­ment. there is a clever use of shot rep­e­ti­tion as he frames the rhythm and the struc­ture of Lucky’s ev­ery­day. His great­est achieve­ment, how­ever, is his re­al­i­sa­tion that what he needs most of all is to stand back and let Stan­ton loose.

★★★★ OUT 14 Septem­ber CERT 15 / 88 mins

Harry Dean Stan­ton’s fi­nal turn.

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