REVIEW: Lucky [2021]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 83 minutes
    Release Date: March 4th, 2021 (USA)
    Studio: Shudder
    Director(s): Natasha Kermani
    Writer(s): Brea Grant

Make a plan and try to stay calm.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own privilege to the point where you don’t even recognize it exists. I can’t recall how the conversation started, but I do remember the topic shifting to using a gas station in the middle of the night. I was talking with my father and mentioned how doing so was a solution to some problem regarding my older sister and him responding, “Well it’s different for her.” I’m in my teens and suddenly racking my brain (it’s the same suburban town, main road, gas pump, etc.) before finally realizing that his statement was less about who we are or where we live and more about the reality that women are more likely to be the target of violent crimes than men.

It’s something men must reckon since men are generally their attackers. We’re the ones who have to look within ourselves to reveal the cultural and societal truths that make this so. We have to recognize what in our language and actions breeds the potential that forces women to worry about activities as seemingly innocuous as filling a gas tank after midnight. And that includes how we respond when those nightmarish events happen too. Are we going to tell the victim that she was “lucky” to survive as though her facing such horrors is an unavoidable guarantee? Are we going to tell her to be “vigilant” as though the obvious imbalance in choosing to blame her rather than the culprit isn’t an underlying part of the problem?

We (men) are therefore the boogeyman hiding in plain sight. We’re the ones women like self-help author May Ryer (Brea Grant) must treat as threats until proving otherwise because we are often more prone to pretending their fear is a “hysterical” reaction because “nothing” is actually wrong. That’s why we can’t help but laugh when May wakes up in the middle of the night to find a strange man in her backyard (Hunter C. Smith) and hear from her husband (Dhruv Uday Singh‘s Ted) that everything is fine. He matter-of-factly tells her that the stranger is “just the guy who comes every night to try and kill them” as though it’s happened before. Has it, though? Has she forgot? Or has she simply become aware of its potential?

That’s the brilliance of what Grant (she also wrote the script) and director Natasha Kermani have created with Lucky. Whether this world that May has awoken to is real or not doesn’t change the danger that she faces. She’s either being punished and/or targeted for some unknown reason in reality or she’s found herself pushing through the thin veil of lies and subterfuge our society manufactures to pretend as though we’re all safe … until we’re not. So we laugh at the strange, almost mechanical ways in which everyone else reacts to what’s happening because their level of concern never equals the circumstances. And we feel the anxiety growing within May as she reckons with that nonchalance since her own days on cruise control are officially over.

The absurdity of our pretending the situation isn’t real is therefore on full display. The people who should be watching out for May are all playing it down whether Ted (“Don’t worry. This is just how it is.”) or the police (Larry Cedar‘s Officer Pace) and social workers (Tara Perry‘s Elizabeth) thinking she’s making it all up as a result of something else: mainly the “easier” answer that she’s afraid of an abusive husband and crying out for help. May’s frustration in response is thus palpable because nobody is listening to what she’s saying. They’re literally all performing mental gymnastics in order to absolve themselves from being held responsible before or after the crime while she’s left fending for herself against “The Man’s” return each night.

It’s all very other-worldly to keep us on our toes because we can’t be sure of anything. We know something is happening since the blood spilled in self-defense is visible, but May’s assailant’s unexplained disappearances have her (and us) daring to think outside the box to wonder if a supernatural element was added. We’re suddenly desperate to give these events concrete form because the alternative would be discovering how it’s all been in her head—a patronizing cliché that would subvert Grant and Kermani’s goals. We’ve become so conditioned into needing this explanation that we refuse to even consider the truth of Lucky being a darkly satirical look at our existence that’s neither. May is in our reality and experiencing everything. She’s simply able to see the strings.

She can’t be duped by the comforting assurances of those who won’t understand her experiences anymore. She can’t pretend she can rely upon systems set-up to protect those who wish her harm more than they were to protect her from them. May instead decides to follow her own advice and “Go it alone.” If no one else is putting her first, she’s going to have to do it herself. While that line of thinking is empowering, however, it’s also another way to feed into the selfishness that has helped get us to this point. Because as we will soon witness courtesy of an unforgettable collision course climax exposing women’s communal nightmare, ignoring the plight others like you are also suffering makes you complicit in the carnage.

All it takes is one eye-opening moment to have your outlook changed forever. Maybe my sister never had to worry about pumping gas after midnight and should have just done so regardless. Or maybe acting as though she didn’t only to discover she should have would have changed her in indelible ways. Because once you peer behind that curtain, everything else will be rendered as absurd as it is on-screen. The platitudes will be hollow. The disrespect from those “doing their jobs” will be deafening. And you will feel as though you’re on an island alone caught in a loop that no amount of strength or tenacity can break because May’s demon isn’t the kind you can destroy. Its faceless patriarchal terror is unrelenting and infinite.

courtesy of Shudder

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