The word “lucky” is a constant refrain in Natasha Kermani’s film of the same name, her third following Shattered and Imitation Girl. The protagonist, played by Brea Grant (who also penned the screenplay) is told repeatedly, typically by men, how lucky she is — and the sentiment curdles with each reiteration. Grant’s successful self-help author, May, is used to telling people how to fix their lives, but when hers starts unraveling, nobody seems to believe she’s really in peril. It’s a neat metaphor for how women go through life, told through the prism of a very strange home invasion.
Lucky begins with the screen bathed in baby-boy blue. Everything in the movie is blue, in fact, right down to the dishwashing liquid May uses on her (blue) crockery. Blue is often associated with depression, and indeed the author is served a platter of sad-face cookies at a signing, each of which is decorated with blue icing. In color therapy, blue can also be a soothing hue. Here, even the darkness of night is blue. It’s then that a masked man tries to murder May and her husband, the latter of whom is played with quiet intensity by Dhruv Uday Singh and tantalizingly never given a name. When May understandably freaks out about it, her spouse nonchalantly states that it happens every night.
Next, May is abandoned and left to fend for herself. Each night, like clockwork, the masked intruder enters her suburban home with ease and attacks. After the (male) cops refuse to take May’s claims seriously, brushing her off with the suggestion that she buy some mace, the author realizes she’s going to have to take matters into her own hands. But, regardless of how many times she catches, disarms or even kills this stranger, his body disappears and he returns the next night, good as new. Is May losing her mind? Is she stuck in a time loop? Or is this some kind of long-buried trauma manifesting itself in reality due to how she’s chosen to make her living?
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Lucky is a gorgeously shot and warm film, but its heart is ice-cold. After many years of telling people how they can fix themselves, May finds herself at the mercy of seemingly well-meaning friends and family who can’t do anything but parrot meaningless self-help platitudes at her. At one point, May is assaulted by a whole group of people who pepper her with questions until she flees (two of the characters are horror favorites Chase Williamson and Jesse Merlin, both of whom starred opposite Grant in Beyond the Gates). The message is slightly ham-fisted and clunky at times, but there’s no doubting its accuracy.
The manner in which May is consistently dismissed will ring true with any woman watching, regardless of whether she’s found herself accosted by a masked killer or not. Kermani and Grant tap into real-life fears that we carry around with us, whether it’s turning a home into the scariest place imaginable or the idea that our fears don’t exist in the daylight. The filmmakers shrewdly capture these sadly-universal feelings, bottle them up and artfully express them through a pleasingly-odd story of home invasion and paranoia. Even May’s latest book, which is called Go It Alone, is a clever nod to how women are expected to just put on a brave face and keep fighting no matter how dire the situation might be. There’s also a suggestion that May’s husband might be the attacker since he disappears right as things start to escalate.
This is clearly a story that’s close to Grant’s heart, and she takes to the lead role with aplomb. May is a complex character, full of contradictions, and not someone who tends to ask for help as even her personal assistant attests. That character, along with May’s husband and best friend, are all played by POC, making Lucky’s core cast predominantly non-white, which is always wonderful to see. Although this is May’s story, the peripheral characters in her life shine through, providing crucial pieces of the puzzle without the need for energy-sapping exposition dumps. Lucky is clever in how it gives away nothing while simultaneously providing viewers with everything they need to know.
As horror movies go, Lucky is slight and provides minimal scares once the killer is properly introduced (although his mask is creepy). Kermani and Grant are more interested in real-life scares, like being stuck in a parking lot with a stranger lurking just a few feet away, rather than all-out gore and violence. Blood does flow, but May also has to clean most of it up, so suffice to say this isn’t your typical Friday night fright flick. Lucky is a rallying cry for women everywhere to fight back, to keep speaking up and to, yes, go it alone when all else fails.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.