What if you lived under the near constant threat of attack, and there was nothing anyone would do. If — day or night — there was a persistent hum of danger that always kept you on edge. And no matter how many times you expressed fear or concern, it was just met by vaguely accusatory questions and a general indifference to your situation. This is both the unfortunate reality for many women and the premise of director Natasha Kermani’s Lucky.
In the film, a self-help writer named May fights to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night. When she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.
Written by Brea Grant (who also stars as May), the script really doesn’t beat around the proverbial bush. In one scene promoting May’s new book — aptly titled “Go It Alone” — she holds a Q&A session (Lucky’s equivalent to the overly telling classroom lecture scene); the dialogue is direct, clearly laying down the groundwork for the film’s feminist themes. It poses questions and raises points that prepare the viewer for its very open (if not perhaps a tad heavy-handed) exploration of abuse and aggression towards women, so prevalent in society that it’s seemingly shrugged off with an aloof “this is just how things are”.
Throughout the film, the script circles back to the absurdity of this notion. May is told to “stay vigilant”, as though an awareness of the situation will somehow prevent it from happening. May’s husband seems unphased by the attacks and the police suggest that it could have been worse; at every turn, May is met with indifference. You can really feel Grant’s grounded exasperation. She plays weary well; you see her exhaustion as she drags herself through each day, frustrated, baffled, and alone.
The music by Jeremy Zuckerman (Horse Girl) is wonderfully unsettling, with plucking strings and tense, halting notes that sound vaguely like if Philip Glass were to score Psycho. It establishes a moody tone, then throws in a comically on-the-nose fake radio song that croons vague affirmations like “you can do whatever you wanna do” while May shops for the tools to try and keep herself alive. It’s a great yet subtle detail that highlights how bizarre this whole situation is (speaking both for the world of the film and the world at large).
Visually, Lucky is surprisingly serene with hues of blue and white that create a calming atmosphere, so offset with the violence that periodically erupts on screen. It considers the harsh reality that comfort does not necessarily equal safety. It’s like the visual equivalent of aromatherapy; it may make you think you’re at peace, but are you really? These subtle details create a sense of normalcy that brushes over the weirdness, making it all feel like some sort of lucid dream that never quite settles.
To add to this dreamlike quality, Kermani escalates the absurd so that you just keep expecting May to wake up from some bizarre yet very realistic nightmare. You constantly find yourself questioning reality. It works, given the themes and subject matter, and it heightens the supernatural elements of the film so that when weird shit does happen, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Lucky has a lot of bones to pick. But for all its not-at-all-hidden messaging, it’s an engrossing and entertaining film. You’re right there with May in her ongoing fight, you’re rooting for her to win. You want to see this guy get taken down.
The subtext is very thinly veiled — it’s about as blunt as a hammer — but the approach is measured. Lucky continually points an accusatory finger at the lack of action taken, the amount of victim blaming and condescension, and the gender narratives we’ve formed as a society.
Despite all the attention that’s been brought to the issue of violence against women, it’s still a persistent problem with no end in sight, which is as absurd as it is maddening. Women aren’t natural victims; this isn’t normal. Lucky really needs you to know that.
Lucky is playing as part of Fantasia Fest 2020. You can catch the next screening on Friday, August 28 at 11:00PM, EST. For more from Fantasia 2020, click here to read my review of Belgian zombie flick, Yummy.