Review – Lucky (2020)

Lucky poster

Overview

Synopsis A self-help guru is attacked every night by a mysterious masked man, though to her horror not only can't she find help, her troubles are readily dismissed.

Length 1 hour, 21 minutes

Release Date March 4, 2021

 

Rating NR

Distribution Shudder

Directing Natasha Kermani

Writing Brea Grant

Composition Jeremy Zuckerman

Starring Brea Grant, Dhruv Uday Singh, Hunter C. Smith

“Lucky” may not be the best descriptor for a film released in 2020. Helmed by female director Natasha Kermani, and written and starring Brea Grant of Heroes, Friday Night Lights and Dexter fame, Lucky proposes an interesting dilemma in its trailer which tends to flip the script on some of the tropes presented in the home invasion subgenre. Despite a successful but limited run amongst film festivals due to the pandemic closing down a number of cinematic events, Lucky did manage to find distribution with Shudder. It may have been cheated out of a theatrical run, but is it worth a look on your personal silver screen from the comfort of your own home? That is, if your home is safe…

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: A masked man repeatedly invades a home and attacks other characters, sometimes with dangerous weapons. Characters are slashed and stabbed. Blood is sometimes seen spurting or pooling from a wound (realistic but light on gore—no close ups on wounds). Bits of brain matter are seen. A character picks a piece of glass out from their skin. Violence against women is repeatedly depicted.

Language/Crude Humor: The f-bomb is dropped one or two times. The film depicts conversations where women are belittled and/or gaslighted.

Drug/Alcohol References: A character drinks a glass of wine.

Sexual Content: No nudity or sex. A character reveals they had an affair in the past.

Spiritual Content: A character wonders if they are being punished almost in a divine sense, though nothing theological results from such musings.

Other Negative Content: The film centers on the idea that women must battle men/the patriarchy to violent extremes every day, which can be interpreted as a viewpoint littered with misandry. There are repeated instances of trespass and entering, mentions of domestic violence, and touches upon a scenario in which a woman feels trapped and even commended for staying in such violent circumstances.

Positive Content: The film critiques the stressors unique to men and women, focusing predominantly on the latter. It needles in on some basic and hard truths, some of which have been lost recently due to activism, and presents a meaty metaphor that generates a great deal of discussion.

Review

Disclaimer: Geeks Under Grace received a screener copy prior to the film’s release for review purposes.

With a runtime of only 81 minutes, Lucky wastes no time getting straight into the film’s main point of conflict. Featuring only a handful of scenes for character development beforehand, it isn’t long till we are introduced to The Man—a foreboding mask-wearing figure that attempts to kill our female protagonist, May. It doesn’t sound all too unusual given Lucky is a horror film, until May’s husband, Ted, casually informs both her and the audience that this psychopath appears every night with about as much intonation in his voice used as one were to state that the sun rises every morning.

This little unusual fact was presented in the film’s trailer as well, and no doubt audiences will enter this movie with a number of questions already burning in their mind. Is May stuck in a time loop? An alternate reality? How come she is only learning about this now? The attitudes of the supporting cast bring about a sense of satire, creating nice moments of dark comedy. Unfortunately Lucky doesn’t maintain that tone or momentum for long.

Pro-tip: when a film delivers a whacky concept that borders upon surrealism, it’s a hint to start engaging with the plot in a more metaphorical way. Horror aficionados are probably more used to this line of thinking considering most plots in the genre tend to also double as an allegory. Except most films tend to blend their straight narrative and allegory nicely together, where both are capable of working alongside each other to form an even stronger, more meaningful story, such as It Follows, The Babadook, and The Invisible Man.

Except Lucky doesn’t work as a straightforward narrative. At all. One might be able to wildly conjecture a supernatural or sci-fi explanation of the events that occur, though it’s painfully obvious that would be missing the point to the film. The question as to why The Man comes every night isn’t as important as to what The Man represents. Lucky leans heavier than normal on its use of metaphor, much like last year’s Vivarium and Relic. I stress this because I know there are some people that will have issues adjusting to this type of narrative storytelling as it’s not commonly seen on film, particularly if one sticks to mainly mainstream media. Some viewers need clear explanations of events, defined rules, and a neat summary to the question, “So what happens?” You won’t find such things in Lucky.

So considering the film is so reliant on the power of its metaphor, it is a bit of a shame to report that Lucky is a bit messy on its delivery on that front as well. It seems to dip into a number of different issues, where no doubt some aspects will speak to some more than others, though it still remains rather murky on its final message. It’s clear during its script development phase the metaphor was developed first then the characters, and this is because the middle of the movie presents an artificial deepness; they try to flesh out May more as character and yet there’s nothing really of substance there and it all feels like we’re merely going through the motions as certain story beats need to be hit in order for the plot to work. As the audience, it does feel like a waiting game for the film to finally just skip to the final step and reveal its secrets. By the time those moments do come around, the film has lost all the comedic timing it built in the opening act, although there is some payoff in the final third.

While it’s certainly not the most beautifully constructed film in existence, I did greatly appreciate that the film did have some bold and gutsy things to say. Yes, it’s a feminist film, but it refrains from the eye-roll worthy mantra of “I am woman. Hear me roar!” that is seen so often in stories in this day and age. It actually toys with the opposite.

For those wanting to read a deeper analysis even if it’s at the expense of some light spoilers, then scroll on.

The film plays with the innate threat that men present to women. That feeling of dread that causes us to spread our keys between our knuckles as we walk through a desolate car park at night. The reason why we ensure every door is locked when we go to bed. The constant worry that subliminally sits at the back of the mind, wondering if today is the day we’ll find ourselves in a violent situation. It’s the bogeyman. Removing illness and accidents, the male of our own species is the next largest threat to our lives, and as someone once pointed out to me, there’s an absurdity when it comes to dating, as women increase their chance of death when they enter a relationship, which brings about a whole new meaning to being vulnerable in a relationship. When it comes to domestic violence (which the film touches upon but doesn’t really explore in depth), it’s not a case where female to male violence doesn’t occur or isn’t statistically notable, rather there’s more societal focus and awareness on male to female violence because of the higher levels of lethality when the man is the aggressor.

Deep down we know our chance of winning a physical fight against a man is not in our favor. There’s a reason why female protagonists normally lead horror films as they heighten the stakes. It’s also why there’s a pushback in action films every time a light-framed woman defeats a tall, muscular man trained in martial arts—it breaks the suspension of disbelief. Some may groan when women are advised to be vigilant, yet vigilance is all we have, and being vigilant has saved lives. There will always be evil men out there that wish to do harm to women, and while it’s a nice idea that this issue could be resolved not by training the victim but rather by condemning the criminal, it ultimately comes across as a naïve thought conjured by a sweet summer child as perpetrators either know they’re committing atrocious acts and do it anyway or suffer from psychological issues. Lucky doesn’t shy away from the bluntness of reality; men will always have the capacity to harm women, this is just a fact of life and there’s nothing we can really do about it. That’s the real horror Lucky presents.

Yet Lucky’s metaphor isn’t perfect. Sometimes The Man is easily dispatched and isn’t much of a threat at all. The film does manage to craft some tension, but in the middle it does lose the stakes. It also doesn’t help the narrative when May doesn’t follow more logical courses of action—moving out or setting up a Home Alone type situation (or just buying a gun and calling it a night). Essentially May chooses to live with the problem and the stress of the situation is etched on her face, which is really powerful on an allegorical level, though visually it’s a little boring to watch as May’s actions become stagnant. The surrealism of the cast’s reactions double-down on the audience’s need to look at the film as a metaphor, yet without relatable reactions it gets hard to emotionally attach oneself to the characters.

As someone who has also studied criminology at a university level, I did find the metaphor to be too extreme, to the point that what truth the film’s message was trying to convey was ultimately overshadowed by its misconceptions. Lucky wonderfully turns the idea of a home invasion thriller on its head by needling the paranoia of the female perspective (justified or not), yet the very concept that women need to be wary of strangers is overblown. There’s a tendency where the people in society who are most fearful of crime are actually the least likely to be a victim, whereas the demographic that demonstrates the least concern (young adult males) is actually the most likely to encounter trouble. The issue isn’t that woman are told to be vigilant, rather it’s only woman that are hearing the message when really the advice should be applied to both sexes, men even more so. Men are significantly more likely to be a victim of violent crime, and they are significantly more likely to be victimized by a stranger (whereas women are more likely to be harmed by people they know… which is really sad when you think about it). Ted at one stage comments to May that The Man has a tendency to attack her more than him, which using this interpretation simply isn’t true; that’s a narrative that’s pushed more by the media than it is by reality. If Lucky were to be statistically accurate, then The Man would target Ted a lot more than May. It’s possible to interpret the film as also covering this perspective, but once again, it’s muddy.

Lucky reminds me of the message presented in The Grey except the latter has the better metaphor. The Grey deals with the topic of depression and presents the idea that every day is an ongoing battle, which is beautifully fitting the tragedy of the condition. In Lucky, the very concept that women need to dangerously battle against men (or rather, The Man) on a regular basis is… well, my sympathy doesn’t end up residing with the female characters but rather the director for holding such a cynical worldview. It’s a story littered with half-truths, and while May is an everywoman figure and I can understand the source of the narrative’s ideas, the summation and final depiction of these elements feel over-exaggerated and extreme, to the point where I find it unrelatable, with the plot bordering on misandry. In another context it might be more relevant, but when the story is set in a country where women’s rights are some of the best in the world, the suggestion of a constant life-and-death struggle seems out of touch with reality.

Ultimately the conversation Lucky generates is more worthwhile and interesting than the movie itself. However, it is still worth a watch. The action and horror elements are light, but it can be thematically meaty if one wishes to reflect on the piece further, which makes it perfect if you’re more into thrillers and can’t handle gore or too much violence. It is a relatively quick movie though it really could’ve been condensed into a short film and still achieved the same outcome with its ideas. Yet what it lacks in gore it gains back in the brutality of its message, and one has to commend a filmmaker for having the courage to commit their views on screen. That’s not luck, rather that takes guts and hard work.

Positives

+ A refreshing anti-feminist yet still feminist message
+ Generates discussion
+ Some great moments of satire
+ Light on horror; suitable for those that dislike the extremes of that genre

Negatives

- Some viewers just won’t like the need to view the film metaphorically
- The metaphor isn’t always clear
- Extreme worldview presented by the filmmaker

The Bottom Line

Lucky presents a world that is worthy of analysis and discussion, although when the ideas are taken to their extremes, it reflects more on the viewpoint of the filmmaker than it does society.

 

5.8

Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

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