WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF
The incurably suicidal Wilbur (Jamie Sives) and his optimistic older brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins) shuffle through their life as they shuffle through the Glasgow bookshop they inherited from their father. Harbour urges Wilbur to move in with him at the flat above the shop, and find a girlfriend in the hope of snapping his brother out of his tendency. But when a customer, Alice (Shirley Henderson) and her little daughter Mary (Lisa McKinlay), snuggle into their lives, a new momentum begins to alter their destinies, in ways none of them could have foreseen.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Happily (after a bit of to-and-fro) this film is being released with its original title, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, which has that tang of European melancholy that I find appealing. It also hints at very dry, quiet humour, which is not at all a bad thing since it prepares you for the film. In a strange case of Danish and Scottish cinematic marriage (but without the Dogme certificate) Lone Scherfig probes new areas of the human psyche, after her entertaining and often sharply observed Italian For Beginners. Wilbur and Harbour, brothers whose names rhyme but not their lives, are typical sibling opposites, with a detachment about life that can be read either as shy or depressive. In Wilburís case, we get a clue to the reason for his unrelenting suicidal tendency, but weíre not so sure why Harbour is a dried up bachelor. The subject matter, though, is not suicide. Much to the directorís credit, the film is never harrowing or depressing; maybe intriguing, thoughÖ Written with gently accusing truths about our weaknesses, Wilbur manages to retain its (and his) sense of humour through some of the most unlikely situations. But it is played as drama, and thatís what makes the film so compelling. The gradual shifting of the emotional positions of the two brothers, and the pivotal role played by romantic love, provide us with not only intellectual but also emotional satisfaction. Creative technical aspects are seamless, and the mood lingers nicely. But itís the myriad details, the subtlety of certain scenes juxtaposed with the buoyancy of others - and the terrific support work of Julia Davis as a psychiatric nurse who wants to care for Wilbur beyond the call of duty - that make it a genuine gem.
Review by Louise Keller:
A bittersweet film about life, love and death, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself is one of those films that absolutely hits its mark. The first English-language film of Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, whose Italian for Beginners delighted audiences everywhere, this is a film whose themes are profoundly affecting with its melancholy tone, droll ironies and truthful revelations. While Italian for Beginners explored the different shades of happiness, Wilburís explorations canvass a wider trajectory, allowing our emotions to swing quite wildly at times. Some of the elements are tragic, but they are offset by an offbeat pragmatism - and a naturally black, rather than bleak, humour emerges. Itís about the irony of life, the strange and unexpected things that happen, the curious and wonderful traits of human nature and the way the most complicated tangle sorts itself out. In the first scenes when we meet Wilbur, the film concentrates on establishing his state of mind and the fact that the only thing he can think about is to kill himself. These scenes are treated discerningly matter-of-fact and reiterated by the gentle, melodic score that is almost at odds with the proceedings. As we meet all the characters, we quickly take note that each plays a role to enhance the wellbeing of someone else. All except Wilbur, (Jamie Sives, understated) who is the victim. But all that changes when Alice (Shirley Henderson, superb) becomes the catalyst for change, and responsibilities shift and roles change. From victim to rescuer, Wilbur suddenly finds a reason to live. But he is not the only one whose life changes. Harbour (Adrian Rawlins, authentic), who has spent his entire life keeping a caring eye for his brother, finds himself in a new role Ė first as a husband, then as a person who needs to be cared for. Alice, who as a single mother has been the sole carer for her young daughter, becomes the object of desire, while 11 year old Mary finds herself doing some of the looking after. Then thereís the Danish Psychologist, the group therapy counsellor with a penchant for licking ears and the lonely nurse, who each go through changes of roles and heart. There are many memorable moments such as the one in the local Chinese restaurant, when Wilburís counsellor date reveals much more at the table than her nutritional secrets. Itís an overwhelmingly moving moment and Scherfig allows the ensuing emotional response to simply and truthfully evolve. Performances by all the actors are wonderful, and the broad Scottish accent adds an extra layer of charm. Thereís nothing trivial about this rich and complex film that simply eats its way into our heart.
Email this article
JAMIE SIVES INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF (MA)
CAST: Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson, Lisa McKinlay, Mads Mikkelsen, Julia Davis, Susan Vidler
PRODUCER: Sisse Graum Olsen
DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig
SCRIPT: Lone Scherfig, Anders Thomas Jensen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jorgen Johansson DFF
EDITOR: Gerd Tjur
MUSIC: Joachim Holbek
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jette Lehmann
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
VIDEO RELEASE: Janury 9, 2004