Synopsis: Distraught over breaking up with his girlfriend, Zia (Patrick Fugit) decides to end it all. Unfortunately, he discovers that there is no real ending, only a run-down afterlife that is strikingly similar to his old one, just a bit worse. Discovering that his ex-girlfriend has also “offed” herself, he sets out on a road trip, with his Russian rocker friend, to find her. Their journey takes them through an absurd purgatory where they discover that being dead doesn’t mean you have to stop livin’!
eyelights: Patrick Fugit. the idiosynchratic script.
eyesores: the predictable dénouement.
“Being here with you reminds me of what I was like before my suicide.”
‘Wristcutters: A Love Story’ is a 2006 dark comedy by Goran Dukić, based on a short story by Etgar Keret. It follows a suicide victim, Zia, scouring the afterlife for his ex-girlfriend, after discovering that she committed suicide sometime after his own death.
This afterlife, amusingly enough, is exactly like the real world… except not as good: people can’t smile, there are not stars in the sky, …etc. And everybody there is a suicide victim – at least, all of them except for Mikal, a girl that Zia befriends while on his adventure.
This afterlife isn’t exactly a ball of laughs – it’s no Disneyworld.
But it does have its perks. For one, as in ‘Den brysomme mannen‘, new arrivals are immediately given a job and a place to live in. Cushy, even if one doesn’t get to pick. And some of the suicides end up with the ability to do small, utterly pointless, miracles (like dropping a match upwards).
Aside from its quirks, which are mostly Dukić’s doing (he added many things to the original story, including a black hole under the passenger seat and insisting that everything be a little bit damaged, to reflect this “less-good” version of reality), the driving force of ‘Wristcutters’ are the character dynamics.
Zia (who is played by the ever-winsome Patrick Fugit) is flanked by Eugene (a crude Russian who sounds a little like Alan Arkin) and the afore-mentioned Mikal, who is trying to find the people in charge because she claims that she isn’t supposed to be there.
Zia is the straight man, the everyman, of the piece. Eugene is the comedic foil, saying or doing inappropriate things, and Mikal is the strong-willed, rebellious-but-sensitive type. They play off of each other extremely well, thanks to all-around solid performances.
‘Wristcutters: A Love Story’ has a potential weak spot, and it’s its predilection for contrivances (ex: Zia finding traces of his gf at the gas station, or Kneller lying in the middle of the road for a rest), but it can be written off as one of its many quirks, not a script issue.
Where the script does falter, however, is in its predictable outcome: of course the guy gets the girl, of course everything works out in the end. It’s unfortunate that such an otherwise delightfully eccentric picture had to resort to such a conventional outcome, but that’s Hollywood for you.
Still, ‘Wristcutters: A Love Story’ is loaded with enough freshness and knowing winks (its soundtrack, in particular, is full of them) that it overcomes these limitations. It’s amusing and entertaining enough that you almost forget that its central theme is self-induced death.
It’s hardly surprising that it’s gathered a cult following since its release. In fact, I suspect that I might turn to it from time to time, for a late-night treat.
Date of viewing: June 11, 2014