Lucky is directed by Natasha Kermani and written/starring Brea Grant as May, a self-help novelist whose book “Go it Alone” preaches the importance of women’s self-reliance. Lucky begins as May and her agent are speaking about her next book deal. May enters a parking garage and she is prepared to drive off when a scream is heard. She is startled yet ignores it and continues with her drive home. She is welcomed by her husband Ted and they enjoy the evening together. They begin to settle for the night as May washes the dishes, locks the doors, and closes the curtains. After falling asleep she is disturbed by a sound outside. Upon inspection, she discovers a man in a mask. She wakes up Ted and he nonchalantly says, “That’s the man. The man who comes every night and tries to kill us.” He is not alarmed in any sense, for him it’s a run-of-the-mill night while May is very confused. The movie continues as May battles the man who keeps entering her home set on killing her. May struggles to interpret what is happening to her, while the people around her seem to understand, yet are reluctant to help her leaving May to fight on her own. What started as an average home invasion very quickly became apparent it’s about much more. Lucky uses horror to ultimately create a social commentary on gender-based violence, sexism, and the patriarchy.
Lucky utilizes repetition in various ways as a means of commentary. Several objects or phrases are seen/heard throughout the entirety of the film. One of the first uses of symbolism is shown while May is washing the dishes. She examines a plate that has a crack in it. Later on, May and Ted are eating ice cream on their couch and she notices a piece of broken glass on the coffee table. She picks it up and says “that could be dangerous.” The imagery of broken glass is repeated several times: May discovers a piece of broken glass in her finger, she steps on broken glass in the living room, there’s a broken window, she uses a piece of glass to stab the intruder. Even the cop notices the shard on the coffee table and repeats the same line “this could be dangerous”. Ultimately, the broken glass is a symbol of the lack of protection women have in society; any perceived protection is feeble and fragile. May uses many tactics to create a sense of protection for herself. She goes to the hardware store to buy rope and tape. She locks her door every night. She buys a security system. Yet despite her efforts, she is still attacked. Many women believe the answer is self-reliance by building their abilities to protect themselves in dangerous situations. There is value in these methods because building capacity for self-protection does save lives. But the myth that women should take responsibility for their own safety as a meaningful solution to violence is not only a harmful notion but does not address the concern on a systemic level. Individual women trying to fight back does not stop the problem because many of the systems designed to “help” are useless i.e professionals such as the police, paramedics, and social workers.
Every night after May is attacked she calls the police. Every night they do not help her, representing the lack of support women receive when reporting any incidents. The police patronize her concerns and fears by telling her to “calm down”, another phrase repeated throughout the film. Women are often told to calm down when speaking their minds to dismiss their concerns, ideas, and opinions by making them seem irrational. Similarly, with other professionals such as the social workers, the dismissal of May’s concerns is spun to seem like a problem with her. She is asked questions about her childhood, her husband, her safety precautions, and her mental health. The insensitive treatment from the police is further seen by the language used while questioning her. He says “you’re so lucky this wasn’t worse” or “these crimes only happen at night”. Not only do these statements minimize May’s experience, they incorrectly assume some forms of trauma are more legitimate than others. This can lead to many women feeling like the emotional toll they are experiencing is illegitimate because it wasn’t “that bad ”. These interactions are unfortunately far from fiction for those who have experienced gender-based violence. Our society continues to blame victims rather than the perpetrator by insinuating women are “crazy” or reports of violence are isolated events. According to a study done by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, “Women often suffer secondary victimization when they turn to the police, social services, friends, or family if, as can happen, they are not believed, blamed, or made to feel responsible for the violence, or subjected to callous or insensitive treatment, when police fail to take evidence, or when their cases are dropped arbitrarily.” Women’s experience with failed professionals leads to further distrust in a system supposedly designed to provide justice.
Kermani further dissects this by incorporating themes of independence. May often rejects help from others to the point of her detriment. As mentioned previously, others seem to know what is happening to her yet don’t offer an explanation. After the first incident, Edie and May’s sister-in-law (Kausar Mohammed) offer their homes for her to stay. May refuses their continual support despite her fears of the attacker. This is reflective of women’s tendency to believe they are better at handling situations by themselves. As well as a mirror of our society that values individualism over a collective or community mentality. During May’s book signing one of the women in the audience says, “Women bond over their failures. Women just run to each other for help, that can’t be healthy right?” The notion that leaning on others for support is somehow unhealthy or a sign of weakness is rhetoric repeated in various spaces, such as the media or friends/family. Being a “strong independent woman” is a phrase used to display abilities to persevere against all odds. For this same reason, May’s book is named “Go it Alone”. While there is immense value in a woman’s ability to provide for herself, cultivate strength, and be resilient, this same concept can result in a fear of being a burden to others or a belief that receiving help will diminish those amazing qualities. As a result, many women suffer in silence. When May finally goes to her sister-in-law’s house for the night, she sees a scar on her back. Indicating that the sister in law, has also been experiencing similar acts of violence yet she continues to hide it. Kermani and Grant are trying to challenge the idea that we shouldn’t lean on others for help because it is more unhealthy not to do so. We need community and support systems to deal with everyday concerns and dismantling larger systems of oppression.
The parking garage scene becomes a pivotal moment in the film for many reasons. May somehow ends up in the same parking garage from the beginning scenes. She encounters Edie as she is being attacked by a similarly masked man. May saves Edie and she says “He’s everywhere I go” & “I don’t know what I did to deserve this.” On their way out, they encounter more and more women who are also fighting off attackers. Edie tries to help but May refuses and says “I helped you because I know you. You can’t help everyone. You just have to accept it, it’s just how things are now, if I can’t fix it for myself, how can I fix it for everyone else?” The language used around blame and May’s reluctance to help others is indicative of the internalized sexism digested overtime. Women can experience sexism as a result of other women. Kermani mentions in an interview that “We are in a community as women and sometimes we make decisions that are good for ourselves. We’re all just trying to survive. None of us have the answer. It was not a condemnation of May. She wasn’t saying this person is bad, she was saying this is what it is. This is a thing that happens.” It feels insurmountable to address our own situations, let alone extending enough energy to help others. Continuous victimization results in feelings of being stuck because there are no adequate resources to address the issue. The lack of response on an individual, institutional, and systemic level wears women down. There is an expectation “to get used to it” and eventually these events are normalized. They are seen as a part of everyday life to prepare for instead of fight against
As the movie rolls to a close, Ted appears after being MIA the entire film. May seems to relax slightly. Ted was not physically violent at any point but he was enormously unhelpful. He may not have been directly a part of the problem but he definitely did not care enough to try to stop it. He continued to feed into the problem by always making it about him or dismissing May’s concerns. Ultimately, Ted’s death reflects that women often feel safer with men around yet they are unable to protect us because even the good men can still be part of the problem. As said from the article, “Think its #notallmen” by Everyday Feminism “even a good man – a supportive man, a respectful man, a trusted man – has within him the potential for violence and harm because these behaviors are normalized through patriarchy.”
The final scenes serve as an affirmation of all the points made throughout the movie. May does everything she can to protect herself in her home only to realize the intruder had keys all along. At this point, May is no longer scared, just extremely annoyed she even has to bother fighting him again. No matter what women do to protect themselves it’s not enough because men are given the tools that allow violent behaviour to continue. People turn a blind eye, institutions ignore or placate concerns, we socialize boys and girls as they grow to think that when a boy bothers you he likes you, or women should not walk alone at night or get too drunk. The laws, courts, and government do not meaningfully interrogate, support, or prevent violence against women. All these examples to name a few, are the ways as a society we allow violence to continue. This is how we give men the keys to our homes every day.
Once May reveals the identity of the killer he is not one man but many. Various men’s faces flash and this is when we realize that the message is that all men contribute to the problem of gender-based violence. While not all men are directly violent, it’s too many men. And at the very least, all men are passively complicit in our patriarchal society. Lucky does not try to say all men are evil but the reality is all of us, men and women, contribute to the oppression women experience in some form. Whether it is from enacting violence, becoming complacent when they happen, dismissing or minimizing, we all have work to do to unpack the effect of the patriarchy. I can see how some may walk away from Lucky feeling a bit deflated as this is such a complex, multi-layered issue that seems too big to tackle. But I like to see this as a call to action. We all have a responsibility to unlearn ideologies that harm each other. As well, we need to hold our friends, families, institutions, and governments accountable. We’re a very long way from a perfect and equal society but an awareness of the issue and a willingness to engage in conversations using films such as Lucky is a step towards building a community that is equitable, supportive, and safe.