Updated: Feb 19, 2021
As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the movie, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers ahead.
Lucky was a movie starring Harry Dean Stanton, directed by John Carroll Lynch—a first for Lynch and a last for Stanton. As IMDB describes the movie, it is a spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist, and Lynch found not only the perfect actor for that role but also the perfect person.
Nearly a year ago, not long before Stanton passed away, I had the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the meaning of life, and his response was simply, There is no answer. That’s a theme that reverberates not only throughout the movie but also throughout time and humanity itself. Without conscious beings to give the universe meaning, is it really just a meaningless void that came from nothing and will return to nothing? Perhaps this is the truth of the universe Stanton spoke of in the movie? The realism? Truth is a thing after all, right?
In the movie, Stanton plays a character named Lucky, but many of the elements of the character are also reflections of his own life. Both Stanton and Lucky never married, both are facing their own mortality (in fact, Stanton died just a few days before the movie’s release), both were atheists, and both served in WWII—the Navy, to be specific.
Facing his own mortality, Lucky—resigned to a small town, a liquid diet, and crossword puzzles—suddenly keels over one day. The doctor’s diagnosis? He is old. Besides that, he is still in great health. While his friend meets with a lawyer to create an end-of-life plan to leave all of his material possessions to a tortoise, Lucky makes no such plans, lamenting that we come into this world alone, and out we go alone.
Reflecting on his life, Lucky regrets killing a mocking bird and the silence that persisted thereafter. At the age of 13, he recalls having an existential crisis, or, as he calls it, an anxiety attack in which he was engulfed by the future of all existence, of all life—the fate of the universe and its eventual dark entropic demise. A thought that retrospectively, due to science, puts Genesis 3:19 to shame. Okay, so maybe Lucky didn’t quite say it like that, but this is what his entire being was inwardly screaming at the absurd nature of nature itself!
At another point in the film, Lucky meets a marine who served in WWII. His new associate recalls landing in Japan and bearing witness to parents throwing their children off cliffs before jumping themselves. Amidst the suicides, murders, and war causalities, a young girl arose, smiling with joy, teaming a radiance like most had never seen. But the marine quickly realized that she was smiling with joy because she was Buddhist, and she was awaiting the moment of death, the end of this life. This thought made her happy, while the very same thought terrified others.
Not long after, skipping a beat here and there, the end of the movie comes. Lucky, or Stanton if you like, says the following:
Stanton: Yes, truth is a thing. It's the truth of who we are and what we do. And you have to face that, and accept it. Because the truth of the universe is waiting.
The truth for all of us: That it's all going to go away. You, you, you, you (Stanton pointing at others), me, this cigarette, everything. Into blackness, the void. And nobody's in charge. And your left with ungatz. Nothing. That's— that's all there is.
Elaine: What do we do with that?
Stanton: You smile.
Harry Dean Stanton died at the age of 91 on September 15, 207. This was his last movie, his last message to the world. He also wrote to endev42 in May 2017 stating there is no answer to the question of meaning in life.
We rate the movie as follows:
Overall - 10
Meaning of Life Relevance - 7
Uniqueness – 5
What did we miss?