This week’s film is the wonderfully titled Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself. Set in present day Glasgow this 2002 movie is a real European affair, co-produced as it is by Scotland, France, Denmark and Sweden. This international feel stretches to a wonderfully eclectic cast which includes the always brilliant Shirley Henderson, Mads Mikkelsen (seen recently opposite Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) Julia Davis (from nearly every half-decent British comedy of the last 12 years) and singer, and now actress, Lorraine MacIntosh.
It is ostensibly a comedy about suicide, but that description only scratches the surface. It tells the tale of two 30-something brothers who own a run down second-hand bookshop. As can happen with brothers, they are close but do not, or cannot, communicate their feelings to one another. They are played with real pathos and understanding by Jamie Sives and the criminally undervalued Adrian Rawlins (who some may recognise as Harry Potter’s faither).
The writing by Anders Thomas Jensen is immaculate, and, considering the subject matter, never becomes mawkish or sentimental. Director Lone Scherfig uses Glasgow as the perfect background for the protagonists to live their lives, giving it a mildly surreal quality, but the focus is always on the story and characters, which is surprisingly rare when you think about it.
This is a difficult film to categorise, which for me is always a good thing. This is highlighted by the two very different trailers that were made for it. One is an extraordinarily misleading, Hollywood style, trailer with ‘voice-over man’ attempting to sell it as some sort of Richard Curtis rom/com. Here’s the more suitable trailer:
As for the rest of the performances, they are so much more than support. While the three principals (Henderson, Sives and Rawlings) are utterly convincing and the chemistry between them drives the film, they are backed up by two brilliant turns from Julia Davis as Moira and Mads Mikkelsen as Horst. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a depressing film, it is anything but. Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself is a moving, funny and enigmatic film that does not give the audience easy answers or neat conclusions. There’ll be tears of all sorts before the end, but by the time you press eject you’ll find a strange smile on your face and slightly warmer heart.
Further thoughts can be found at scotswhayhae
Alistair’s latest thoughts on Scottish books appear on the first Monday of every month.
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