Fantasia 2020: Natasha Kermani's 'Lucky' is a Dark, Chilling Thriller
by Zofia Wijaszka
September 25, 2020
Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. It seems as if one of the common themes in many films this year is stalking. Back in February, we got to see Elisabeth Moss fighting the "Invisible Man". This heinous act, appearing more and more in TV & film, relates to many people on a personal level, especially women. We can see similar themes (and more) in Lucky, the spine-chilling thriller directed by Natasha Kermani (her third film following Shattered, Imitation Girl) and written by actress / filmmaker Brea Grant (director of this year's 12 Hours Shift), who also stars as May, the main character of the film. What makes Lucky unusual is its post-reflection consideration that lingers long after finishing the thriller.
May is a suburban wife and a writer. Her self-help / success books are quite popular. Generally, she doesn't have anything to complain about. However, that completely changes when she wakes up in the middle of the night to a strange noise. She sees a man with a weird, silicone-like transparent mask, standing outside the window. Next thing she knows, May is faced with a dangerous stranger and must fight for her life while her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) is downstairs. In the aftermath of this brutal attack, she's not taken seriously by her husband or by the police. The situation worsens when Ted leaves to go to his parents' house, and the masked man keeps stalking May and trying to kill her night after night. She realizes there is nobody to help her, so she takes care of it herself. She bravely decides to stop running and confront her stalker.
Brea Grant starring as May is absolutely spectacular. The director of 12 Hour Shift is excellent as the main character in this thriller. I'd even call her a brand new type of final girl. Although May is terrified of what's happening, she's also determined and careful. May learns from her mistakes and finds new ways to defend herself from the unknown man. Kermani couldn't find a better actress to take on this main role. What makes Grant's character different from other final girls is that May doesn't ever scream or cry. Not even once. This woman faces the danger, and bravely stands her ground. Dhruv Uday Singh as Ted is disturbingly ignorant towards his wife. Together with Kausar Mohammed, who plays his sister, Sarah, their characters seem to reflect society and its bleakness, often completely numb to women's accusations. It's especially evident on social media where anybody can say anything and feel blameless.
This frustrating numbness follows the character throughout the entire movie. It appears when May talks to the police, doctors, social workers, and others. In one of the film's best scenes, Kermani emphasizes the nuisance of asking the same questions over and over while May reports her assault. The scene is reminiscent of a similar moment in the Netflix film Unbelievable (starring Kaitlyn Dever). Lucky also challenges the repetitive narrative that appears in so many other films. This time, viewers get to experience May's rationality while also observing the ignorance of her husband, friends, and the police.
Kermani puts a lot of focus on the fight scenes between May and the mysterious man. If it's not on the stairs, it's a maze. Every single moment of confrontation between those two is exhilarating and, at the same time, confusing. The director puts Grant's role on a pedestal and makes her a rational, wise person. The audience is confused about what's going on and craves to find out who the man in the mask is, what he wants, and why May's friends talk to her like nothing is happening. But after all, that's not the point of Lucky. The point of the film is much deeper and hides between the lines. There are multiple time jumps that deliberately create a sense of confusion. The filmmakers take the feelings of uneasiness and extreme fear that accompany every woman who has ever walked alone at night.
Lucky further examines the correlation between women and distress or misery. Many often think that they deserve the bad things happening to them for some reason or another. When something unfortunate occurs, they tend to blame themselves first. This type of reaction goes way back and has many explanations - one is the officers' often bitter, ignorant attitude. With May, we see her looking within herself for that blame. Then suddenly, she wakes up from it and says, "I don't deserve this." In another intriguing scene, May's publisher (Leith M. Burke) calls her "lucky" because she just received another book deal. She looks at him, hammer in hand, and says, "I'm not lucky. I just work really, really hard."
Natasha Kermani's Lucky is a reflection-provoking thriller that surprises right from the very beginning, catching us by surprise. Once we think we know what's going on, Kermani changes course. The whole cast is thoroughly riveting, especially Brea Grant, who is becoming one of my favorite directors / actresses. This compellling thriller left me with many thoughts on my mind – first of all, unity. I realized once again, just how many women understand exactly what May is going through. And at the same time, it's sad. If only the response to harm, violence, and stalking was more understanding, many things could change. Those potent themes, next to the amazing cast and great script, make Lucky a perfect watch.
Zofia's Fantasia 2020 Rating: 5 out of 5
Follow Zofia on Twitter - @thefilmnerdette