Imagine for a second that you’re down on your luck, perusing the convenience store for whatever tiny snack you can afford. It’s Christmas Eve and out of the corner of your eye, a rich businessman wins over $100 million in the lottery. You have a firearm on you, one opportunity clear in sight. Would you take it? It’s an interesting question to ponder, and one that Angus Cloud’s Sterling, in one of his final roles, answers in the affirmative. His choice to stick up the convenience store for this man’s lottery ticket forms the core dispute of writer-director Daniel Brown’s Your Lucky Day, a high-tension chamber piece that examines the struggle in achieving the American Dream, delivering superb performances from the ensemble along the way.
Making the most of a low budget and confined to mostly one location – the convenience store – filmmaker Daniel Brown shows great strength in escalating the stakes. Sterling’s initial robbery of the wealthy man, in front of the store operator Amir (Mousa Hussein Krusha), musician Abraham (Elliot Knight), and his pregnant wife Ana-Marlene (Jessica Garza), goes sideways by the attempted intervention of an itchy trigger-fingered cop Cody (Sterling Beaumon) that ends up with much blood on the floor and everyone, not the least of which is Sterling, attempting to resolve the situation with as little violence as possible.
A piece like Your Lucky Day must be hell on the actors, demanding a lot from them physically and emotionally. The ensemble steps up to the plate gladly. Angus Cloud leads with a, perhaps naive, sincerity, trying to keep the situation calm even as he brandishes a handgun. The story goes that the actor was selected off the street for his role in HBO’s Euphoria simply based on his raw charisma, and that’s on full display in this role. He’s a recognizable figure from real life, the guy who is completely out of options and goes for broke out of panic. Mousa Hussein Krusha and Elliot Knight do similarly great work as two witnesses trying to navigate a deadly hostage situation that could be life or death, or even riches or rags.
Out of the whole cast, Jessica Garza shines the brightest, conveying the pains of pregnancy and the fight to simply survive as someone whose only goal is to make it through the night. She goes through the biggest transformation throughout the film. Cinematographer Justin Henning, editor Nick Pezzillo, and composer Matt Hutchinson maintain a docu-style, anxiety-ridden haze of a scenario that spirals and/or evolves at a moment’s notice. The convenience store itself – its fluorescent main floor and the shadowy back rooms – provides staging grounds for the characters to go off and hatch their own plans for how to resolve this mess.
Throughout Your Lucky Day, the core theme that comes across is that of everyday citizens burned by their pursuit of the American Dream. Sterling’s drive to simply rise up from the dregs of society, Abraham and Ana-Marlene’s unstable attempts to maintain a life for themselves, Amir’s simple want to operate his business without hassle, and Cody’s buying into his own role as a member of the police all represent different viewpoints that are all ultimately thrown into flux when the dollar signs appear in their eyes. That winning lottery ticket, and the security it provides, represents an unreachable prize that they now have in their sights. And they become crabs in a bucket, trying to rise to the top while pulling each other down.
Your Lucky Day gets awful compelling during a shift to the viewpoint of a group of police, led by Captain Rutledge (Jason O’Mara). Not only do we see them as their own fraternity, or self-appointed class of citizen, but we see their station embolden them to take control of a sensitive standoff in a reckless, brutal manner. Moreover, they see this as an opportunity for profit, shifting the dynamics of power in the movie greatly. Jason O’Mara’s calm-speaking, physically imposing character comes across as something of a demon, representing the powers that be that will still control the output of those beneath them at any cost. The third act of Your Lucky Day uncomfortably mimics a lot of the terror people see from the police department’s continued corruption.
The momentous pacing in Your Lucky Day doesn’t always work. Playing out more like a straight play than a feature film; characters are fully expendable and the perspective switching can be a bit nauseating. Part of this is what keeps the film fresh, as it has a “you’ll never guess what happens next” ethos. Nonetheless, it does begin to resemble looking in an aquarium as a passive observer, the more experiential nature of its early moments fading into a machine with many moving parts. This approach arguably works to great effect, although it’s worth knowing what one is getting into before giving Your Lucky Day a whirl.
There’s no denying that Your Lucky Day accomplishes what it set out to do. As a pressure cooker that pits characters against one another and constantly makes you doubt allegiances, it works. As a treatise on what the empty promise of the American Dream does to somebody, it works. Overall, the whole thing works. No, really, it’s the consummate kind of low-budget independent film that showcases the talent of its cast, tells an engaging story, and doesn’t take too much time doing so, foreshadowing a promising career for its writer-director Daniel Brown. If you’re looking for something that fits into that thriller niche, then it’s Your Lucky Day.