“Wristcutters: A Love Story” take a fascinating premise (any folks who die through purposeful suicide or other (drug overdose) are sent to an inbetween world, slightly worse than our own. It is a world where they cannot feel or smile but that there is more to as well as miracles can be performed and otherworldly beings act as humans. The screenplay was based off the short story by Etger Keret called Kneller’s Happy Campers, a story I now plan to read later as well as the graphic novel Pizzeria Kamakazi.
This is a difficult subject to do a movie over and if the film had made light of suicide I wouldn’t have directed it. Though it does have dark humor, it also has so much respect for it’s characters and their motivations, that for that reason alone the film is already rated very high after watching.
“Wristcutters: A Love Story,” was directed and written by Goran Dukić and produced by Chris Coen, Tatiana Kelly, Mikal P. Lazarev and Adam Sherman.
The story is about Zia (Patrick Fugit) who commits suicide after his ex breaks it off with him. He is transported to the world where all suicide victims go and here learns that his ex Desiree (Leslie Bibb) killed herself as well. Having no memory of his prior life besides the incident he goes off to try and find Desiree while Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian musician and the Hitchhiker Mikal (Shannyn Sossoman) who is looking for the People in Charge as her coming here was a mistake. From here the story unfold as characters clash and more about prior lives is revealed.
Here is the assessment of the film:
The Pros: The World – The world the suicide people are transported to is fascinating. It is like a post-apocalyptic wasteland but with the trappings of our own. There are cops, restaurant owners and people can still experience some of the same things. There are also miracles too, showing how this world is very physically different than ours in it’s Laws (Law of Gravity, etc.).
The Soundtrack – The music for this film is wonderful. It is reflective and gets you into the circumstances of the characters and situations. Bobby Johnston and Gogol Bordello were prefect for this film.
Zia – Initially it was hard for me to like this character, he was way too apathetic and he had no motivation. He doesn’t really become interesting til he meets Eugene, who is a live for each moment kind of guy and finds out Desiree is alive which gives him a motivation to leave the rut he’s stuck in in this afterlife. It after he meets Mikal that things change as she sees the bigger picture and gets him to think about the miracles they see and in turn about the life he once lived as she talks about all the people she left behind she misses. This changes him from a very selfish to selfless character to the point that he waits for her and makes community in this new world. Patrick Fugit does a great job.
Eugene – He’s a bit base at times (can’t see beyond physical, only comments on physical) but he grows as a character too when Mikal calls him out on his crap and he falls in love with someone at Kneller’s commune. He is a bit of the comedic relief but has a lot of heart.
Mikal – Mikal is one of the most interesting characters as she came to this world by accidental drug overdose. She is there reminding everyone of the world they left behind and to take control of their lives since she’s looking for the People in Charge. We see her love with ZIa happen over time as she distrusts him when Eugene is bashing her belief in People in Charge and Zia does nothing to stand up to that but they resolve things when Zia stands up to a cop who pulls her over for asking questions. After this we see their friendship and later love when Mikal says she’ll see Zia again and to wait when the PIC arrives and Zia realizes Desiree died for religious reasons for a psychotic madman who kills himself again in the world they are in. Sossamon owns this role and is one of the best parts of the film.
Kneller – Is not all he appears to be. The group (Zia, Mikal and Eugene) find him on the side of the world and he takes them to his commune where miracles happen if you aren’t invested in them…which is almost zen in how amazing things happen when they aren’t forced. His dog eventually gets stolen by Messiah King which leads to a confrontation that shows that Kneller is one of the People in Charge (PIC). We see that he is a good guy too when he takes Zia’s file so Zia will appear again in the hospital next to Mikal, completing both their arcs. He has a great community too as they are outcasts which is what this world is made of, and especially the main leads. Tom Wiats is greats.
The Message – The message at the core seems to be reasons to live, showing how connected all of us are no matter how apathetic we may first appear to be. It also is not to judge by appearances as Eugene comes around as a good guy and Zia and Mikal are shown to have a lot of depth. This makes the movie powerful as it treats victims of suicide with respect and also shows what there is to live for in life. It isn’t moralizing or blaming, it’s trying to show as much a picture as it can through it’s point of view.
Okay: Desiree – I never got the love between her and Zia so her becoming a religious fanatic for a Cult Leader and killing herself for him to get to the world wasn’t a surprise. This was a shame as most of the other characters get a lot of exploration. She’s a plot device, but not a bad one.
Messiah King – Is also a plot device to reveal that Kneller works with the People in Charge, he’s a crazy guy who thinks he is God and kills himself in front of everyone. I never got his motivations either and there was nothing to show him as special versus Kneller who was helping people perform miracles.
Slow Start – The first 30 minutes of the movie are pretty slow, and considered how apathetic Zia is at that point it’s hard to get invested until he runs into Eugene and we learn more about the world and he finds his motivation.
I would highly recommend this film. It is truly great and I’m grateful my friend let me borrow her version of it. This film lets the characters tell their own stories and shows the complex motivations that make us do things or change our outlooks on life. It also shows a great love story as two people who feel attraction fall in love over their conversations and adventures when they become friends and onward from there. Only issue is Desiree and Messiah King felt more like plot devices than actual characters, and it does start out pretty slow. Regardless, it really is a good film that covers a difficult subject with a lot creativity and respect.
Final Score: 9.4 / 10. A favorite film for sure.