Still feeling Lucky

I saw the movie Lucky on Sunday. It’s now Wednesday and I’m still thinking about it. I alternate between mentally drafting my end-of-life plan, and wondering at the loneliness of life. I can’t get him out of my head.

Each day for Lucky was routine. He’d get up. Light a cigarette. Go through his daily ablutions. Do his exercises. Then he’d head down to the local diner where he’d sit and do his crossword. Next, he’d stop by the corner shop to pick up milk or cigarettes before heading home to watch his game shows. That evening, he’d hit the local bar where he’d sit a while with his mates before going home to bed. One day followed the next, all with a repetitive sameness. He had regular interactions. People knew him to talk to but no one really knew anything about him.

Lucky looked at life through a veil of cynicism. We get glimpses of this through is comments and see how he’s lived through snatches of conversations he has with random strangers. He notes the difference between being alone and being lonely and I suspect he doesn’t consider himself lonely, until he sees what he’s missing.

This movie has stayed with me for days. Perhaps because so many elderly people live in my building, all of whom have their daily routines. I know old people whose friends have all died, whose children are busy rearing their own families, whose partners have long since gone. Some of them are treading water, warming an armchair, waiting to die. Others will be dragged kicking and screaming from the world, their exit the same as the way they came in.

What keeps niggling at me though is what happens when there’s no routine. When there’s nowhere you’re expected every morning at 7 or every evening at 4. What happens when there’s no pattern? Who misses you then? Who raises the alarm when you don’t show?

A few years ago, this sort of stuff bothered me. I had just one regular appointment – on Wednesday mornings. If I fell and cracked my head getting out of the bath on a Thursday, it would be a week before anyone missed me. Calls or texts going unanswered would be written off to busyness.  Emails left unattended likewise. And who’d follow up? We’re all so busy doing and going and seeing to stuff that an absence might bother us temporarily but then would be forgotten in the manic minutiae of daily living.

I might deplore sameness, predictability, routine. But sometimes they have their uses.

That said, when the little old néni who sits beside me at mass in the village didn’t show up one Sunday and I saw a funeral leaving the village the following day, I assumed incorrectly that she’d died. But she showed up at mass the following week – all smiles – back from her holidays. I’d thought the worst but at least I missed her. I went on holiday for three weeks in my first year in BP and the only person who’d noticed I’d gone was the waitress in the café on the corner. Living with someone changes all that. It’s one of the pluses.





2018 Grateful 51

A 90-year-old atheist has outlived and out-smoked his contemporaries, and as he comes to terms with his own mortality, he searches for ever-elusive enlightenment. So reads the blurb for the movie Lucky. I hadn’t read that before we decided to go. It wasn’t my pick. I’m not sure I’d have gone, had it been left to me to decide. Which would have been a shame.

A veil of reflection settled over the audience as the credits rolled. I’m sure everyone was contemplating their mortality and resolving to make a will and draft an end-of-life plan. Even if you don’t have much by way of anything material, an end-of-life plan seems like a good idea. It’ll make little difference to you – as you’ll be gone. But it might make it a little easier on those you’ve left behind. Note to self duly made.

It reminded me a little of another favorite – The Station Agent.

When his only friend dies, a man born with dwarfism moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own personal loss.

Both are slow movies with not a whole lot going on, on the surface, but they run deep. In Lucky, the late Harry Dean Stanton played the leading role. He died in September last year, aged 91, a few months after the film was released. What a poetic last movie to have worked on.

It got me thinking. About death. About how I want to die. About burial vs cremation. About how long I’ve left to do all the things I want to do. About what exactly it is I want to do. About what’s important. About what matters. About the sort of funeral I’d like. About making a will. About the burden and responsibility that comes with owning property and having stuff. About obligations and whether they’re real or perceived. About the attractiveness of Jack Reacher’s life on the road. About the increasingly frequent urge I’m getting to step outside the circus ring and swap the insanity for simplicity. About how happy I feel inside when I’m telling people of the beauty and solitude of the kis-Balaton.

I made a conscious decision last year to step back and reduce my level of commitment. I promised myself that I would be more respectful of my time and learn to say no, politely but emphatically. I won’t change overnight. It’ll take a few months to work through it. I’m making slow but steady progress, though, and for the first time in a long, long, time, I have time. And for that I’m grateful.

As for the movie:

On Rotten Tomatoes, Lucky has a rating of 98%, based on 92 reviews, with an average score of 7.9/10. gave the film four out of four stars, writing that the film is “the humblest deep movie of recent years, a work in the same vein as American marginalia like Stranger Than Paradise and Trees Lounge,’ but with its own rhythm and color, its own emotional temperature, its own reasons for revealing and concealing things.”