Jamil Dehlavi’s SEVEN LUCKY GODS (2013) is anything but feel good. Rather, it is a slice of life film about survival, loneliness, lack of justice in the world, and other themes I imagine viewers will glean for themselves.
Filled with rage and anguish over his war-torn childhood and desolate adolescence in Kosovo, Mehmet (Nik Xhelilaj) has come illegally to London, England to survive and seek revenge. The Albanian Muslim uses his dark good looks, sexual allure, and calculated charm to obtain money, food, and shelter from others. He eases (more like worms) his way into the lives of three particular individuals. Two of these characters I found to be truly sympathetic, a physician named Marilyn (Kate Maravan) and one of her long-term patients, Meg (Alison Peebles), a lonely elderly woman with MS. Everyone else, specifically three other supporting characters along with Mehmet, are largely motivated in life by more selfish interests.
In fairness to Mehmet, as the screenplay unfolds, we the audience eventually find out about his horrific past and see him as more than just a grifter with sociopathic tendencies. He is a product of post-colonial oppression and cultural upheaval after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in his case persecution for being Muslim. It is no wonder he seeks retribution. There are many raging men like Mehmet in the world and this profile of an anti-hero of sorts helps to bring such suffering, harsh individuals more into public consciousness. Like it or not, this movie needed to be made.
The acting is excellent by everyone. Christopher Villiers believably plays Adrian, a stuffy English bureaucrat with personal secrets to keep from the public. Some interactions between he and Mehmet had me cringing inside. I felt a mix of sympathy and disgust for both of them. This did not make for easy watching, but was psychologically intriguing.
I was particularly moved and impressed by a reaction shot of Kate Maravan’s face in one scene. It is rare that I ever see cameras linger for a while on someone’s visage while he/she/they slowly express deep emotion. This lack of such a technique is particularly the case in mainstream American films, which so often rely on action scenes, colorful or high tech. settings, and special effects more than on intimate character development and interactions to move the story along. Non-U.S.-based filmmakers seem better at emphasizing the latter two elements, such as this well-made British production is.
SEVEN LUCKY GODS is brutal in places, at times downright cynical more than I personally am, but thought-provoking. Hence, this movie is a worthwhile watch for when you are in the right headspace to handle some realistic emotional abrasiveness. Good self care after seeing this will be important, including hugging a loved one.
2 thoughts on “Movie Review: SEVEN LUCKY GODS”
My son and I watched this film together and both loved it – my son adding, “it was the best film he’d ever seen”. It was hard for me to see Mehmet as a sociopath except when he asked for money. When he seemingly wormed his way into those particular three lives, I saw a doctor helping a patient, an old woman accepting the kindness of a young man, and a young man befriending an older man while he talked about his dead son. It was easy to see the weirdness of their relationship during bedroom scenes which I saw as love me-leave me alone. We both did not see Mehmet as a dark-skinned Muslim. I had to watch this film a second time after reading your post to see what I had missed. Thank you for sharing this powerful film and your insightful commentary.
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Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I’m glad you and your son enjoyed this movie. I sensed that you each would. I have corrected my description of Mehmet, replacing “sociopath” with “sociopathic tendencies.” This is actually a description I wrestled with while writing my review. Your input helped me to shift to a less rigid, overly-encompassing description of him that I think is more accurate. I also removed “dark-skinned,” because he technically isn’t. That is probably me being unintentionally a bit racist, conflating dark hair and eyes with skin color, when those are all separate traits. (Although, interestingly, the child actor who briefly played Mehmet as a little boy at the beginning of the movie was notably dark-skinned from what I recall. The grown Mehmet was not, though.) What I was trying to get at was how his dark hair and eyes rendered him “exotic,” less typically Caucasian-ideal. But, in writing that, I feared I would sound rather assuming and, hence, racist. I did not realize until now that I was referring/alluding to the “dark handsome stranger” trope that Mehmet was possibly taking advantage of as part of his way of seducing and grifting off of people, which he definitely was doing to 1) survive in a hostile environment (e.g., him being an illegal immigrant where he was), 2) plot revenge and 3) somehow right the profound injustices, large and small, that had occurred so much in his life. #’s 2 and 3 overlap but aren’t exactly the same. The revenge I allude to here is more specific while righting injustices came with the unspoken sense of entitlement he had to get whatever he needed from whoever he could, including from those who had nothing directly to do with harming him as a child and young man. He definitely lived “dog eat dog,” as sociopaths and sociopathic leaning (given how sociopathy is, of course, on a spectrum) people do.
I do stand by my impression that Mehmet indeed “wormed” his way into three people’s lives. While he was indeed partly coming from an honest place with at least two of his three “targets”– seeking urgent medical help from the dr. and truly assisting a woman in need, he was also quickly assessing ways he could take advantage of those women for his own ends. In other words, his motives were mixed, including significantly partly self-serving and underhanded. As for the older man, I viewed Mehmet’s motives as purely sinister at the start. If I say more to explain, I’m afraid of revealing spoilers for anyone else who may read this and wish to see the movie. As you may have heard the saying, “Psychopaths are born. Sociopaths are made.” And while Mehmet may not meet all the criteria for being diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder, he definitely had a large amount of sociopathic traits, as several of his actions show in the movie. Vengefulness, stealing, lying about one’s identity repeatedly, and manipulation of others, including with emotional outbursts and turning cold in presentation, all of which he often displayed, are sociopathic traits. Well, his horrific background made him that way, sadly, and likely would more than not for others in his shoes. As the movie unfolded, I was glad to develop compassion for him, up to a point. I was left with other feelings for him as well, which I think the filmmaker likely intended.
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