Fantastic Fest 2023: YOUR LUCKY DAY Places Us in the Thick of a Harrowing Crime Thriller

The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.

The piece below was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.

Daniel Brown’s socially conscious single-location film is full of suspense and charm

From The Killing to A Simple Plan, some of the most memorable crime thrillers that dare you to put yourself in the shoes of the “bad guys” often cast a pall of delicious irony over their proceedings. In Daniel Brown’s Your Lucky Day, adapted from his 2010 short, convenience store owner Amir is persuaded to go along with a bloody and potentially lucrative caper based on the idea that fate “is written.” But while the four strangers mixed up in this plot may initially think fate is on their side–Brown’s breathlessly plotted thriller is more than eager to question just how much luck we have in store. 

All of Miami awaits the results of the Megaball lottery drawing in the days before Christmas–but only Amir (Mousa Kraish), drug dealer Sterling (Angus Cloud), expecting couple Abraham (Elliot Knight) and Ana (Jessica Garza), and beat cop Cody (Sterling Beaumon) are around when a brash rich man discovers he’s won the $156 million jackpot in Amir’s tiny bodega. Before anyone can blink, Sterling takes matters into his own hands and begins a bloody standoff that leaves the lottery winner and Cody in a bloody heap–and the rest of the store patrons as Sterling’s hostages. However, Sterling is plain-spoken and pragmatic–offering the hostages their freedom and a cut of the lottery winnings if they can help him get away with the crime.

The conspiracy appears simple enough–with signposts existing all over the convenience store that not only are Sterling and company fated to get away scot-free, but that they’re meant to. Amidst the grimy, lived-in production design are ads and neon signs with telling messages–“Do it, big boy,” “You deserve it,” etc. that give illumination to the forces working for and against the characters that are impossible to see for themselves. The screenplay’s timing of certain events–notably the arrival of another group with their eyes set on claiming the winning ticket–harkens back to the crime capers mentioned above, as characters’ seemingly random, desperate actions feel like they were fated to happen just as they were meant to. The combination of design and writing evokes effective humor and drama in equal measure throughout Your Lucky Day–giving it a solid platform for the film’s remarkable ensemble. 

Angus Cloud’s performance, tragically one of his final films before his death in July 2023, is a naturalistic and unassuming turn that quickly becomes one of Your Lucky Day’s best strengths. His violence is brutal yet wholly understandable; he’s able to win over his hostages to become his accomplices through empathy as much as pragmatism; and he’s endearingly clueless in how to actually dispose of his own carnage. Cloud is a natural everyman, and with each scene he’s in the weight of his loss looms all the greater.

Fellow performers Kraish and Knight also turn in confident, assured performances for as terrified as their characters may be, and a cadre of crooked cops led by Jason O’Mara are sufficiently terrifying while lending bitter credence to the film’s themes about current states of power and the inability to change things for the better. However, Jessica Garza wholly runs away with the film with a spellbinding performance that had Fantastic Fest audiences cheering as, like Sterling, she’s forced to take matters into her own hands if it means getting out of her situation alive.

Your Lucky Day has a fifth performance, however, that made the film quite memorable compared to others in its genre. In a key moment, Brown focuses on the pile of bodies the characters have accumulated–when a fly lands on the camera lens and walks across it, making the audience uncomfortably aware of their own presence and complicity in the film. Throughout, Brown and cinematographer Justin Denning are acutely aware of the audience’s role as a spectator in the film, heightening the feeling of being paralyzed by the whims of fate amidst the myriad tragically funny events of the film. It’s a decision that elevates and hits home the social issues raised in the film, including income inequality, qualified immunity for police, and financial and sexual predation of those who don’t happen to be born white, rich, and powerful, among many others. Brown, Henning, and his cast make us acutely aware of how much the characters can or can’t do with the hand they’re dealt, and includes us among those who are unable to do anything to help the characters. As the credits roll, Your Lucky Day energizes us to shake off what shackles we have and, like the ill-fated group of strangers trapped in this bodega, encourages us to change what we can for the better.

Your Lucky Day had its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest 2023. It is slated for release on November 10, 2023 from Well Go USA.

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