Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Well-written, enjoyable, offbeat black comedy drama from the director of Italian For Beginners, featuring a Next Big Thing-type performance from Jamie Sives.

Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself) is co-written and directed by Lone Scherfig, the Danish director who made the enjoyable romance Italian For Beginners. Her co-writer is Anders Thomas Jensen, who wrote two of the best known Dogme films (Mifune and Open Hearts) and the film is unusual in that the action and characters have been transposed from Denmark to Scotland and yet the finished film still feels unmistakably Scottish in tone. It was an audience hit at this year’s Edinburgh film festival and is likely to repeat that success here.

Permanently Suicidal…But Rather Unskilled

Newcomer Jamie Sives (in an impressive feature debut – his ‘Next Ewan McGregor’ tag surely not too far away) stars as Wilbur, a depressed young man who keeps attempting suicide, only he isn’t very good at it.

After his latest unsuccessful attempt, he’s taken in by his younger brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), who runs the secondhand bookshop left to them by their recently deceased father. Encouraged by both the cynical hospital psychologist (Mads Mikkelsen from Open Hearts) and the slightly screwy group therapy nurse Moira (Julia Davis) Harbour decides that what Wilbur needs is a girlfriend.

However, it’s Harbour who unexpectedly finds love, with Alice (Shirley Henderson), the shy single mother who works as a cleaner at the hospital and keeps coming into the shop to sell books left behind by the patients. Harbour, Wilbur, Alice and her eleven year old daughter Mary (newcomer Lisa McKinlay) grow ever closer, and both Wilbur and Alice begin to emerge from their respective shells, but then Harbour makes a discovery that threatens to upset their new-found ‘family’.

Moving And Darkly Funny

The film is both moving and darkly funny. Wilbur himself is an unusual, offbeat character who is difficult to get a handle on and Sives’ pitch-perfect performance highlights this. Does he really intend to kill himself or is he just seeking love and attention? Some of his social responses (particularly in his hilarious dates with the besotted Moira) even seem to indicate that he might be borderline autistic, though this is never touched upon.

Shirley Henderson gives a lovely performance as Alice, whose shyness is gradually stripped away to reveal a quite complex character, one which could easily have been made unsympathetic in the hands of another actress. Adrian Rawlins is equally good, portraying a character who is, at times, too nice for his own good – his final few scenes are heart-breaking. There’s good support too from Mikkelsen, Davis and McKinlay.

In short, Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself) is a darkly funny, touching film about life, death and love and there’s enough here to make Scherfig’s next film an eagerly-awaited prospect. Recommended.

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Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself) (15)
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Content updated: 15/12/2017 04:13

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