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.