Whether it’s in film, gaming, comics, or even boring occupations like engineering or law, the experience as a professional woman is, to say the least, unique. While no one is exempt from trolling and targeted abuse, women seem to be targeted with more frequency, ferocity, and vitriol. Brea Grant (After Midnight, 12 Hour Shift) and Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl) bring this terrifying vision the screen under the wrappings of a nightmarish home invasion thriller.
Whenever a screenwriter pulls double duty, also taking on the role of the main character, you know you’re in for a deeply personal story. Lucky is no exception. Brea Grant’s script and performance both feel intensely personal. She struggles as seemingly the only sane character in this hyper-realized nightmare world. The story kicks into gear when Grant’s lead character, May, wakes to someone breaking into her home. Her husband very nonchalantly remarks, “Oh, it’s just the guy who breaks in every night and tries to kill us.”
His cavalier attitude resembles the way third parties often discount the effects of abusive behavior. In addition, his comment also clues us in that this is part of a repeating pattern of behavior which May seems to have forgotten. Her approach mimics the way we often block out traumatic events as a defense mechanism that backfires when we become less able to defend ourselves. Sometimes we need that outside voice to remind us of what we’ve overcome. But instead of support and encouragement, here she is met with condescension.
In fact, nearly every other character besides May ignores the very obvious trauma she’s facing. It feels like intentional obliviousness at best, or active gaslighting at worst. By the time May’s husband abandons her, the metaphors at play become overwhelmingly literal as we’re reminded that May is promoting her new book, titled Go It Alone. Indeed, she is on her own in this crazy journey, where the same mysterious man breaks into her home, night after night. And, like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game at the carnival, night after night, she kills him only for him to pop-up and return the following evening. In this way, Kermani and Grant take tired horror tropes and work them into a biting commentary on abusive behavior, trapping May in a cycle of viciousness from which she can’t break free.
Ultimately, I found the metaphor a little blunt, but not in a way that materially detracted from the experience. The odd behavior and disinterested dialogue serve to place May, and, by extension, the viewer, in a sort of waking nightmare. The character affectations serve to isolate her. Even among crowds, she is simultaneously constantly in danger and chastised for her vigilance.
Even more remarkable, Lucky never feels repetitive, despite the Groundhog Day-like nature of the plot. May’s interactions with her stalker never play out the same way twice, with creative use of the available spaces, along with a variety of weapons and kills. The camera remains steadfastly focused on May’s perspective, creating empathy with her overwhelming sense of dread and tension from constant vigilance, rather than exploiting it for the sake of thrills.
Kermani has crafted a gripping social thriller, focusing us on May before pulling back in the final act to reveal a much larger world. Between Lucky and Imitation Girl, she has cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with in the genre for years to come. Grant, too, is a triple threat. Her performances in the genre space always command attention, and she’s now repeatedly demonstrated that she can also write and direct. The combination of talent comes together here, culminating in a tidal wave of terror and suspense right up until the final scene.
Lucky made its international premiere at Fantasia on August 23, 2020.