Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

| April 11, 2004

The title pretty much says it all: Wilbur (Wants to Kill Himself). the second movie by the writer and director of Italian for Beginners. Because he does. Very badly. Lucky for him, he tries very badly to do so and rarely succeeds. His brother Harbour tries his best to keep sharp objects away and such, but Wilbur is suicidal for most of the film. He’s so bad, in fact, that the Suicide Group banishes him for being too depressing.
It’s a comedy, albeit a Danish-Scottish comedy, and thus rather black and ironic. And it has some wonderful lines, as when Wilbur tells Harbour what being dead is like: “It’s dull as dishwater. It’s silent and completely dark…it’s like being in Wales.”
Everyone seems to think that what Wilbur needs is a girlfriend, and there are plenty of women who’d love the job, but he’s already got a hobby…instead it’s Harbour who meets a woman, Alice (played by Shirley Henderson, fast becoming a favourite British actress of mine for her roles in Bridget Jones, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and Harry Potter. She’s also in Intermission, which I very much want to see). They get married in a Chinese restaurant (Alice’s daughter has a fascination for Chinese things) and everything seems to be on track…
Then, of course, life starts happening all around. But the way things are dealt with is very real and understated. As in Italian for Beginners there is great attention paid to the characters. Even with the lesser roles, you get a feeling that these people have lives and a lot of backstory; they could just as well be the focus of the movie as the main characters. It’s fascinating. You begin to see them as actual personages and not just background to the story. It seems that Lone Scherfig, the writer and director, has a gift for this sort of attention to detail, and it makes her films all the richer.
It is a bit morbid and macabre at times…but at the end, nearly everyone lives happily ever after.

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