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    Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

    Kill Will

    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.


    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 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
    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.

    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.

    Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself  
    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.

      Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
    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

    Reader comments on Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself:

  • Mary - Lisa McKinlay   from stacey gowran, Dec 7, 2005
  • GREAT MOVIE!!!   from Nicole, Jun 1, 2006

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