YOUR LUCKY DAY Review: Powerful Thriller Fueled by Desperation

Angus Cloud, Elliot Knight, and Jessica Garza star in director Daniel Brown's thriller.

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
YOUR LUCKY DAY Review: Powerful Thriller Fueled by Desperation

Writer/director Daniel Brown’s feature debut Your Lucky Day comes 13 years after the short that preceded it.

It seems likely that Brown spent that time perfecting every aspect of the film he wanted to make, because the feature is an astounding piece of small scale filmmaking that takes on big problems, or rather the big problem of life under capitalism.

It also speaks to the severity and apparent intractability of that problem that nothing has changed in the decade plus since the short film was made.

That nothing has changed, or rather that things have continued to get worse, allows the overtness of Your Lucky Day’s message and anger not only to work, but to make for one of the most affecting films about people trying to survive in 21st century America. There are moments of dialogue throughout the film that at first feel too on the nose, until we realize these are conversations and thoughts that people have every day. Albeit the moment early on when a rude older white man shouts “that’s the American dream!” for all in a convenience store to hear after winning a $156 million lottery ticket doesn’t happen every day.

It’s that ticket, and the opportunities for a better life it presents, that kicks the film’s plot into gear. One of the other patrons at the store, the young drug dealer Sterling (Angus Cloud), immediately springs into action, creating a makeshift mask and brandishing his gun in an attempt to take the winning ticket. But things don’t go as simply as he’d hoped, and soon bullets are flying, blood is spilled, and the people in the store have to make some very big decisions.

It’s tempting to say that Your Lucky Day balances its sequences of suspense and violence with its calmer moments of conversation because the film does move between the two with brilliant pacing, but that would mischaracterize the conversations. More than any sequence with a threat of violence, it’s the conversation scenes between the surivivors of the inciting event that are most anxiety-inducing and thrilling to watch. In the discussions of what to do next, how to cover tracks, what story to tell, and how to split the money, we become aware of the myriad ways things can go wrong for these characters.

Despite minimal set up, we feel for the characters and want the best for them because of the performances and writing that paint pictures of full human beings. Cloud’s eyes communicate the mixture of anger, fear, and desperation that drives the young man to his actions, alerting us to a softness in the drug dealer who just held up a store. The affectionate touches and matter of fact disagreements between a young couple (Elliot Knight and Jessica Garza) with a baby on the way mark them as real human beings in an unjust world rather than symbols of innocence caught in a potentially tragic situation.

While tragedy certainly strikes for some characters, Brown and cinematographer Justin Henning keep the film from ever feeling like an overbearing social realist film with stunning lighting and creative camera choices. Outside scenes are lit seemingly entirely by the bright signs of storefronts, dark yellow streetlights, and the various colors of lights from cars passing by.

At first, those multicolored and deep contrast-creating lights are at odds with the painfully white and visually flat fluorescent light of the convenience store. But when things go wrong, the store is also plunged into darkness that leaves characters speaking in the glow of computer and phone screens and the dull light of display refrigerators. In the boldest formal moment, we witness a fist fight in glimpses from behind a passing train, telling the story of the conflict in pieces rather than an excitingly choreographed action scene.

Your Lucky Day is an unrelentingly tense and emotionally engaging film that draws on the real phenomenon of lottery winners’ murders to create a thriller that manages to walk the fine line between exciting and too real. It’s something special, and I hope it doesn’t take Brown another decade to make another film.

The film opens Friday, November 10, in select theaters and will be available Tuesday, November 14, On Digital, via Well Go USA. Visit the official site for more information

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Angus CloudDaniel BrownElliot KnightJessica Garza

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