When a tortoise crawls across the screen in the opening scenes of Hary Dean Stanton’s swansong, it sets the pace of the film – a reflection on ageing, mortality, and lifestyle.

Director: David Lynch
Duration: 88 minutes + Special features

Essentially a movie about an old man living in a small desert community (a symbol of his fragile life), it follows his daily routine: morning yoga exercises, doing crosswords, watching game shows and engaging in sparse banter in a local coffee shop – and smoking so much that his doctor actually thinks it might harm him, if he stops.

Harry Dean Stanton, in his last role before dying, not only plays Lucky, but – as the extras make very clear – is the role model for the character. Both unmarried men had a panic attack at fourteen, and served in the Navy as a cook on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank – or, as the character says, “low speed target”). Co-writer Logan Sparks was PA to Stanton and Lucky shares several other stories straight out of Stanton’s own interviews.

Almost universally critically acclaimed, the highly-watchable movie is billed as “the spiritual journey of... a cantankerous, self-reliant 90 year-old atheist,” but this is overstated; the only spirituality on offer is Stanton’s homespun thoughts (“It doesn’t exist, the soul”) and a nod to a bit of mindfulness before we all disappear into nothing.

There is a short journey, however, as Lucky becomes aware of the impending void and wonders how to respond to it. The sharp stoic softens, opens up about his fears and warms to people.

Extras are many in this Eureka! release, mainly the 75-minute 2012 biopic Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, with brief clips from his many films (Cool Hand Luke, Alien, Repo Man and Paris, Texas) and interviews with such names as Wim Wenders, Kris Kristofferson, Stanton himself and friend David Lynch.

No one can claim a shortage of information, with a sizeable collector’s booklet and the two interview features (direction and co-producers) totalling some 45 minutes.

Derek Walker