Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton), having reached his ninetieth year, has a little routine he likes to perform in his US border town home. He will rise when he wakes, wash, brush his teeth, dress, do some Tibetan yoga as used by the monks in Asia, have a smoke, then head off to wander over to his coffee shop of choice where he orders a cup in his favourite chair and sees about solving the crossword in the newspaper. It's simplicity itself, and once he has gone through other elements of that routine, which include shouting an expletive at the door of a local bar then visiting a different one which will accept him as a regular, he considers that a good day. But how many good days are left?
Although Stanton had a couple more projects to be released when he died, including the Twin Peaks revival series, Lucky was effectively the final work he participated in, and was not around to see it gain a wider release outside of the festival engagements. Therefore it was regarded as his swan song, and rightly so as it operated as a showcase for his very particular charisma, a role apparently tailor made for him so much so that he barely seemed to be acting, he was merely being followed around by actor turned director John Carroll Lynch's camera and he captured his various interactions. There was more to it than that, and inevitably at his age, the end was in sight.
Such was the cult of Stanton, resting on a selection of performances you couldn't imagine anyone else bringing the same humanity and eccentricity to over the course of many decades, that it was a given his fans, casual and dedicated alike, would be keen to see him do his thing for the final time, and he did not disappoint. Lucky was a film that was uncluttered and direct: this man had somehow reached his nineties, despite or because of various incidents in his life that anyone who gets that old can relate to, and in his generation that included anything from going to war (in the Navy, as the star had) to a packet a day smoking habit that somehow had not served him the big C at any point.
So when you get old enough, you can't help contemplating the great beyond, if indeed you believe in an afterlife, which Lucky is not sure he does. This is triggered by a fall at home where he went off into a dizzy spell and woke up on the floor, but his doctor (Ed Begley Jr in a single, extended scene) tells him he is healthier than anyone could have expected at that age and lifestyle, so he shouldn't worry too much about the future, after all, death gets us all eventually and there's no point in living your days waiting for it to arrive. Lucky can see the sense in that, but he has been rattled, and soon everything is reminding him he doesn't have as long to go as he did when he was halfway through his existence, heck, he doesn't have as long to go as he did yesterday, and he has no idea how to cope.
He admits at one point to someone (waitress Yvonne Huff) who has been kind enough to check on him that he's scared, and as independent as he is, refusing to bend to anyone's will but his own most of the time, the thought of dependency when he cannot look after himself anymore is not a matter he wishes to weigh up. The film was peppered with recognisable faces, from Stanton's frequent director David Lynch as a man who really is preparing for his demise, yet is leaving everything to a pet tortoise that has escaped, to Beth Grant and James Darren as the owners of the tavern our hero frequents, to Tom Skerritt as a war veteran Lucky feels comfortable chatting to about the conflict in a way he wouldn't with anyone else who had not been through it. That feeling of watching the passing of an age, from someone who had lived most of the twentieth century, and the obsolescence that came with that in the supposedly brave new world of the relentless future, appeared to be the point, to make us grateful we were around when Stanton's generation were too, however late in the day. If it never made up its mind how profound it wanted to be, it had a pleasing, unassuming quality. Music by Elvis Kuehn, with some well-chosen songs.