Amid the bloody pulp that is cinema this season, the Danish-made, British-set "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself," from the director of "Italian for Beginners," is a fresh look at the old death wish.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
There's a lot of killing going on at the multiplexes right now. Uma
wants to "Kill Bill" (still), Denzel is a "Man on Fire" (arson, or spontaneous
combustion?), and the Coen Brothers are killing ladies (and cinema itself,
apparently). And now, courtesy of Lone Scherfig, the Danish director of the
luscious Dogme import "Italian for Beginners," "Wilbur Wants to Kill
When you learn why in this bold but uncompromisingly bleak
melodrama, it makes a lot of sense. But it doesn't make for the most
satisfying of cinematic experiences certainly a large box of Kleenex is a
required accompaniment to this alternatively uplifting and heavily
downbeat motion picture.
|WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF|
|Directed by: Lone Scherfig.|
Written by: Lone Scherfig, Anders Thomas Jensen.
Cast: Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson, Lisa McKinlay, Mads Mikkelsen, Julia Davis, Susan Vidler, Robert McIntosh, Lorraine McIntosh, Gordon Brown, Mhairi Steenbock.
Cinematography: J┐rgen Johansson.
Edited by: Gerd Tjur.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Scherfig's English-language debut is finely and affectingly rendered by
Scottish actor Jamie Sives as Wilbur, Adrian Rawlins as his older brother
Harbour, and Shirley Henderson ("Harry Potter's" Moaning Myrtle), the
single mother who almost comes between them.
Harbour runs the secondhand Glasgow bookshop bequeathed the
brothers grim by their father a slightly moth-eaten emporium of
misalphabetized tomes frequented by equally moth-riddled and eccentric
patrons, including Alice (Henderson), who often sells a book or two to
support herself and her young daughter Mary (a confident Lisa McKinlay).
When Wilbur's attempts to kill himself begin to show a marked increase,
the paternal Harbour takes his younger brother under his wing,
introducing him to Alice in the hope that she will make for a sexual life
preserver. Instead, Wilbur's unswerving dedication to the job at hand
sees him kicked out of his suicidal support group at the hospital where
Alice, coincidentally, works as an orderly.|
This colorful compendium of characters are themselves a life-affirming
distraction, a throwback to the passionate literati of Scherfig's previous
film, overseen by a frisky nurse (Julia Davis) and an all-business,
furrow-browed psychiatrist (Mads Mikkelsen). When not fueled by
Wilbur's obsessive drive to top himself, the film, in these humorous and
oddly heartwarming sequences, offers some semblance of hope.
Working from a script co-written by Anders Thomas Jensen, the
director nicely balances humor with ripe tragedy, preventing her film from
teetering over into slapstick whenever Wilbur's suicidal tendencies come
up short. But as with a lot of films set in the drearily industrialized north of England and its stark Scottish surrounds, you just want to scream at
these people to get the hell out, to escape the inbred, stoic, and
single-minded resignation, to relocate someplace where the sun, hope,
even happiness occasionally shine.|
"Wilbur..." ends somewhat against the grain, on an up note those
remaining seem happy with their ultimate lot but this browbeaten and
emotionally drained viewer was already setting the gas dial on his oven to mark 5.
|MAY 1, 2004|
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