When Harry Dean Stanton died a few weeks ago at the age of 91, it seemed impossible he was really gone. Stanton had been a fixture in movies and television (but mostly movies) for decades, bringing to life a collection of characters that seemingly no one else could pull off. He usually worked as a character actor showing up to steal a scene or two with his soulful eyes, haggard face, and distinctive voice that never fully slipped away from his Kentucky origins — tools of the trade he could use to create characters ranging from the pitiable to mysterious to menacing to tender. In his rare starring roles, Stanton proved he could be just as magnetic, often by doing less rather than more. To watch Stanton in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas is to see a true rarity: an actor comfortable simply being onscreen and confident in his ability to convey a full array of emotions with seemingly little effort.
Lucky, Stanton’s final film, shows that confidence remained undimmed even at the end of his career. Directed by John Carroll Lynch (no stranger to the world of character actors thanks to his work in everything from Fargo to Zodiac to American Horror Story) and written by Drago Sumonja and Logan Sparks (who once worked as Stanton’s assistant), it’s a wistful, unabashedly minor swan song that fittingly casts Stanton as a man recognizing he’s much closer to the end of his life than the beginning — and wondering what it all means.