22 May 2004 | ruby_fff
Is this film really depressive as its title suggests? Not at all.
This is one helluv a title, isn't it? Why would anyone want to see a movie with a seemingly death-impending title? I remember hearing about WILBUR on cable IFC's (Independent Film Channel) "At the Angelika" film previews. It's a film in English by writer-director Lone Scherfig from Denmark. I rather enjoy her previous film "Italian for Beginners" (2000) in Danish, Italian and English. (Might want to check out her mini-bio on IMDb - quite interesting to learn about a filmmaker's background.)
"WILBUR wants to kill himself" is a small quiet film that actually has much human pathos. The three 'and a half' main leads: Harbour, the older brother who's closely protective of Wilbur, is sensitively played by Adrian Rawlins; Wilbur, the younger brother, is lively played (sounds like an oxymoron considering what the title suggests his role is) by Jamie Sives; Alice, the young woman who came into their lives, is subtly played by Shirley Henderson, and the critical 'half' being her little daughter Mary, aptly played by Lisa McKinlay - the portrayals and interplay were flawless. Didn't realize Rawlins is so talented - he was "Dr. Richardson" in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996) with the tour de force pair of Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard. (Noticed from the ending credit roll that Lars Von Trier was one of the two script consultants on this film.)
The music by Joachim Holbek complements the daringly subdued theme and tone of this unusually titled film. Well, let's not be hung up on the title. Kudos to Scherfig for being so venturesome with the story and her script. Isn't life just so - uncertain, risky, not as one might expect all the time? Cheers to the full cast and crew for their willing participation and creative energy on this filmic journey. The film's a tear-jerker - wouldn't you know it - with dashes of bemused humor (little details and vignettes like at the Chinese restaurant, at the hospital ward, or by the river, and of course, in the bookstore and in the bedroom) - it's basically about where one's heart is. The plot creeps up on you - gradually the viewer is drawn into this three and a half-some world we see on screen, caring for the characters, worrying with them, sighing with them, smiling with them, and pulling for the best possible outcomes. We want them to somehow succeed - succeed in what? Now isn't day to day living about coping with whatever comes and listening to one's heart? Grand and unattainable philosophy? Not at all. It's also being attentive to the dear persons around us, in our lives, and give a little - don't wait. Wilbur just might learn to let go of himself, think less of himself, and surrender to loving life. That just might be what the title implied, perhaps? It may not be for everyone - see for yourself. "WILBUR wants to kill himself" deservedly worth your while.
About the talented Shirley Henderson from Scotland: I've enjoyed her performance as Shirley, the wife & mother and love interest, opposite Robert Carlyle and Rhys Ifans in w-d Shane Meadows' "Once Upon a Time in the Midlands" (2002) - almost a similar menage a trois situation but less assertive than her role in "WILBUR." She's also in director John Crowley's "Intermission" (2003, script by Mark O'Rowe) - taken on, among the stellar cast, the rather offbeat yet still demure role of Sally (the script itself is plucky and unyielding alright - then again, it's probably quite 'normal' in the setting described) - another amusingly enjoyable film from Ireland if you're so gamed.