A movie by John Caroll Lynch
I stole the right to live as if there was no time.
I stole the eyes of God as if those eyes were mine.
It’s on these verses of “I stole the right to live“, by Michael Huxley, that the film credits of “Lucky”, by John Caroll Lynch, are presented to the viewer. Lucky is a 90-year-old man living in a Colorado hamlet. Lucky’s days, as well as his way of talking, and his way of moving have the sluggishness and the oscillating repetitiveness that only the final steps of a person preserve.
In the same way as when one enters grandma’s lounge, so when accompanying Lucky in his walks, one is invited to discard the speed and multitasking spirit of the younger life. Such an abrupt slow down, once seated in the cinema armchair, leaves the viewer puzzled about the reasons behind making a slow movie about a 90-year-old man. Will that be all? Is anything going to happen? And, truly, what can one expect to happen to a lonely man, generally proud of his loneliness inhabited only by his companions at the coffee table in the morning or the bar in the evening?
Few things can happen: to fall on the kitchen ground one morning and to realize that 90 years have now passed and that the routine of the alarm clock, of the morning exercises, of the crosswords and the walks could end soon. To be confronted with the possibility, until then still not considered, of being able to go ahead without having understood that you are what your name says, lucky. To come to face the fact that you haven’t taken time into account, that “buen amigo, que paga y cobra, quita y da” (“good friend, who pays and charges, takes and gives”, taken from “Con el tiempo y un ganchito” by Pedro Infante).
And so, Lucky’s fight with his voiceless anguish begins. “Realism is knowing how to accept things as they are,” he reads from the dictionary for crosswords. But realism in the face of death asks one to strip himself naked in the face of one’s own deepest precariousness, without knowing yet what there is to accept.
So, Lucky becomes the restless philosopher who cannot find peace in the face of the unsolvable question: where does truth lie in the face of a man’s own death?
And he walks, up and down the village, passing by the church which (alas) is evidently not the place for such questions. Until he climbs up onto his oracle stool says “everything fades into darkness, into nothing. And what can we do? Smile.” On his face a kind and naïve smile appears that will accompany him until the film credits. Peacefully he has accepted that luck is that act of stealing the right to live, as if there was no more time, and to have the eyes of God, to see things as He has made them.
Yet God does not enter into Lucky’s life: critics would say he is a die-hard nihilist. But his reconciled smile is something more than low-quality realism. One may wonder what it means to smile in front of nothingness. An insane and calculated madness? Or is it allowing oneself to be naked in the face of a bigger mystery, worrying only about “taking the light to walk” and begging
Oh Mercy! Lord, have a pity!
I’m only travelling; I don’t have no place to go.
It’s courageous to make a film today about a 90-year-old man and give him the centre-stage as if, even at thirty, fifty, twenty, or at seventy years, it was important that one asks himself what will become of him at the end of the journey.
It’s courageous in giving dignity to an old age erased and crushed by the plasticized and performative beauty of global marketing.
But it is even more courageous to produce a film to state that it is exactly in front of the unanswered question that one should smile, because life was lent, or possibly donated, to you. Only that sometimes it seems that they forgot to inform us of this.