Killing oneself doesn’t solve anything, literally, in the clever dark comedy Wristcutters: A Love Story. Based on Etgar Keret’s short novel Kneller’s Happy Campers, this existential tale about an afterworld exclusively for suicide victims and a handful of newcomers attempting to navigate the landscape pulsates originality through its uncanny way of incorporating the familiar into the offbeat.
In this mundane universe—emphasized by drab, dusty settings purposefully filmed to look washed out—an amiable young man named Zia (Patrick Fugit) finds things to be pretty much the same, only “a little worse,” as he puts it, in his post-suicide life. Having passed into this existence after slashing his wrists because of a breakup with his girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb), Zia now works at a pizza parlor and is doing his best to get along with his complete stranger of a roommate.
He soon develops a friendship with an uninhibited Russian named Eugene (Shea Whigham), whose own arrival resulted from self-electrocution by way of electric guitar. When word reaches Zia that his beloved Desiree herself committed suicide shortly after his own demise, he and Eugene set out on a road trip to try to find her. Along the way, they pick up Mikal (Shannon Sossamon), a pretty and spirited hitchhiker attempting to make her way to the rumored “People in Charge” to plead the case that her drug-induced suicide was accidental.
Considering the moroseness of the topic at hand, it is with a deft touch that director Goran Dukic fills his debut film with genuine humor and a tangible warmth that permeates the relationships of the trio of dead friends. These tonal staples remain constant throughout Wristcutters, no matter how bizarre or nonsensical a direction the story takes, including a wonderfully plotted detour into an eccentric commune run by the indefatigable Kneller (Tom Waits in a memorable cameo). The absurdist narrative also does well in avoiding quirkiness for quirk’s sake, instead using the peculiarities of the suicide-purgatory to demonstrate the actual pleasures to be had in the unexpected.
The onscreen chemistry between Fugit and Sossamon, moreover, further fuels interest in the two leads—both of whom play their parts with a subtlety and surprising poignancy that resonates and sweetly underscores the Love Story in Wristcutters.
Cast: Patrick Fugit, Shannon Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Leslie Bibb and John Hawkes
Director/Screenwriter: Goran Dukic
Producers: Chris Coen, Tatiana Kelly, Mikal P. Lazarev and Adam Sherman
Genre: Black comedy
Rating: R for language and disturbing content involving suicide
Running time: 91 min.
Release date: October 19, 2007 NY, November 2 exp.