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Sidewalk Review: Luckey

September 22, 2009


Although its less about luck than will power, Tom Luckey and his family show that a life altering paralysis may change one’s life path but it doesn’t have to take away who you are.

In the documentary, Luckey, directed by Laura Longsworth, we follow the lives of the Luckey family after Tom, the patriarch, has suffered a full body paralysis. His son, Spencer, gives up his own architectural career to help his dad keep his business.

Before losing his ability to move, Tom was a sculptor that was most successful at creating children’s climbers that, as seen in the film, are breathtaking pieces of art but also serve as a functional object.

Tom struggles as a solo artist to contend with a son who has helped take over the business and wants a partnership and full voice in what is created. Tom’s wife Ettie struggles with being the caretaker rather than just a wife. The relationship between Ettie (the step mom) and Spencer are explosive. Tom, who needs them both, also struggles with his own identity after no longer being able to be independent or the caretaker of either.

A picture of Tom Luckey, pre-paralysis shows him smiling with a T-shirt that reads ‘Runs with Scissors” and from what we see of him both in b-roll footage before the accident and on-screen is a charismatic artist and strong individual. What we also see is the tumultuous relationship of father-son as they move forward with creating Tom’s most ambitious project to be housed in the Boston Children’s Museum.

The dynamic of the three draws you into their lives and the struggle of life altering changes, creating art and keeping a family together make for a moving documentary. But it is the honesty, the laughter and tears, even the shouting matches, that are a humbling look into a family who has experienced something profound. What is wonderful is how the editor doesn’t focus on Tom’s disability or the arguments, but weaves a refreshing story that shows us the complex nature of family and art.

While we don’t get the happy ending that tells us everything can be OK, we get something so real that it is refreshing to have seen the Luckey family captured on film.

And while the name may not be familiar to you, for those of you in the Mid-South with kids, if you’ve been to the Children’s Museum in Memphis than you are familiar with Luckey’s work.


For more of Luckey’s images, visit his Web site.

“Luckey” will play Sidewalk Film Festival on Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. and will also be broadcast on Sundance Channel on Oct. 26.

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