A Fighting Chance for Sisyphus: A Review of Lucky
Humanity is constantly evolving every day, and as our world changes more and more rapidly every day, the way we tell and perceive stories also changes. Some mediums and genres seem more resistant or baffled by change than others, who embrace the change head-on. So far, I think the genre that has been the most welcome to change has been horror. Some may be “shocked” by that, but if you think about it, there’s nothing surprising about that at all.
No matter how many faceless avatars on the internet want to argue about how horror is only for gore-hounds (it’s not) and is apolitical in nature (it definitely is not), horror will always be the genre for the minority voice and the oppressed. In the last demi-decade alone, horror has seen such a major upheaval in the wake of everything happening in the world, and in the process, has paved a path for an entire new generation of impressive horror voices in widely different backgrounds from Jordan Peele to Issa Lopez.
One of those voices whose name is starting to pick up more and more recognition is Brea Grant. Her career starting with acting roles in television series like Friday Night Lights and Dexter, and she’s gone on to host the popular podcast Reading Glasses with co-host Mallory O’Meara and carve out a writing and directing film career with movies like Best Friends Forever, 12 Hour Shift, and now her most recent release, Lucky, which she wrote, with Natasha Kermani directing.
Lucky tells the story of May Ryer (also played by Brea Grant), a women’s self-help author and blogger who writes books with titles like Go It Alone. After having a fruitless and frustrating meeting with her agent, she returns home to what looks like the perfect life: an amazing house, a sweet husband (Dhruv Uday Singh), and a comfortable evening. But something about her husband seems off. He’s distant. And May keeps finding little pieces of glass everywhere in the house, and her plates keep breaking at the slightest touch. That night, May wakes up to find a masked, well-dressed stranger standing in their yard. When May wakes her husband up, he nonchalantly shrugs it off as “the man who comes to kill us every night.” After May kills the intruder in self-defense, her husband continues to act nonplussed about the event, like it’s everyday life, even being able to predict that once May turns around the killer will have disappeared. The next day, her husband disappears without any warning, telling her he doesn’t want to fight with her anymore, but in turn leaving May to deal with the mysterious intruder herself over and over again.
There’s not really a way to give a surface-level pitch of Lucky without making it sound like another retread into Groundhog Day time-loop narratives, but Lucky couldn’t be further from that comparison. There’s no sci-fi elements, there’s no attempt to literally deconstruct what’s happening to May, because that’s not what is important about the story Grant and Kermani are telling. Coming back to the reason why the horror genre so perfectly mirrors the shifts and changes in society, Lucky uses the horror genre as a tool to present a feeling too vast and abstract for literal words.
Film is a tool for empathy, so rings true the immortal words of Roger Ebert, and Lucky takes this tool to present to others who would not understand: the gas-lighting, fear, and survival instincts that women go through every single day of their lives. While everyone in her life, men and women, from strangers to close family and friends, try and convince her that nothing out of the ordinary is happening, May slips further into a surreal nightmare of repetition and terror. It’s a Sisyphean story of perseverance through an ugly loop, knowing there will be little to know payoff, save for the chance to stay alive just a little bit longer.
Both Grant’s writing and Kermani’s direction excellently balance out the abstract tone, message, and dark wit and humor, and terror without ever feeling the need to speak down to their audience, only stumbling into monologuing territory once or twice.
The people who need to hear the message of Lucky will hopefully listen. I know that it spoke to me. I’ll never truly understand what it feels like to be a woman trying to survive in a society that is structured against you every day of your life. The best we can do is listen and find ways to improve. Lucky provides the first step in that process. It is the perfect vehicle for those who don’t understand to listen, and hopefully they will.