8 November 2006 | Flagrant-Baronessa
A wealth of humour aptly masked in gloominess
This is a creative treat that, while boasting of no discernible insight or idealist film-making ambitions, manages thoroughly entertaining perhaps it is due to the aforementioned low-key approach that Wristcutters fares so well. Balkan director Goran Dukic combines the best of offbeat indie cinema with 'traditional' dark humour, making the film appropriately edgy but never tipping over into 'desperately quirky' like so many "festival type films" fall prey to.
In fact, when I sneaked in as a volunteer to a screening during the Stcokholm International Film Festival, the manager presented the film as one of his personal favourites of 2006. This should serve as a mark of its success and indeed I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. This is highly ironic since both the style and substance of Wristcutters are unspeakably gloomy and sad. Much credit it due to Dukic for making something as tragic as suicide victims into laugh-out-loud catalysts.
But the film perhaps belongs to Patrick Fugit who inhabits the protagonist Zia a young man who slits his wrists in the first scene of the film and ends up in a 'suicide limbo' of sorts, where all people who have taken their own lives are banished. I say 'banished' because this afterlife is an unreasonably gloomy, grey and grainy nowhere-place that is captured remarkably through a seemingly colourless lens that aptly emphasizes the mundane and depressing state. There are barren industries and vast stretches of desert nothing else. Oh and no one smiles. Ever.
Zia leads a dull life in this post-apocalyptic hole until one day he finds out that his ex-girlfriend on earth has also committed suicide and ought to be in the same place as him. He sets out on a road-trip with his friend Eugene (a superbly funny Shea Whigham) a Russian immigrant who lives with his whole family of suicide victims and soon the two are joined by a beautiful newcomer and hitchhiker (Shannyn Sossamon) who claims she got here "by mistake" and is now trying to rectify it by finding the people in charge.
Although much fun is to be found in the creatively barren setting, the central triumvirate is possibly one of the most dynamic mix of characters on film in recent years, no hyperbole. Shea Whigham is gloriously hard-boiled and hilarious as Eugene the Russian and enables the director Dukic to reconnect with his Slavic roots. It is both admirable and puzzling that the film manages so funny without resorting to laughter or smiles (there are two smiles throughout the movie, seriously).
But 'Wristcutters' has problems: it remains a shallow look at an infinitely more layered issue, suicide. It explores no characters to depth nor does it ever bring up what drove them to taking their own life in the first place. In this way, no interesting philosophical notions are navigated and no insights or messages come through other than an overriding 'Pro-Life' attitude Pro-Life being for living and against suicide which is punished by an eternity in a perpetually gloomy state, a subtle hell of creative proportions.
Thankfully it avoids most of its shortcomings by simply being short and sweet. Of course, this renders Wristcutters: A Love Story an ultimately forgettable little indie romp.
7 out of 10