Title: Wristcutters: A Love Story
Genre: Romance, Drama, Fantasy, Dark Comedy
Director(s): Goran Dukic
Writer(s): Etgar Keret & Goran Dukic
Cast: Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Shea Whigham (Splinter, Fast & Furious, Machete), Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale), Tom Waits (Dracula [’92], The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), Leslie Bibb (Iron Man, Iron Man 2)
Mikal and Eugene try to remember what they looked like when smiling.
Summary: Zia (Patrick Fugit) is a love-struck young man who feels as though life simply isn’t worth living after his long time girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb) leaves him. Devastated by this loss, Zia slits his wrists and bleeds out on the bathroom floor. Unfortunately, the relief that Zia seeks is non-existent, as it is revealed that people who take their own lives are sent to another world almost identical to the previous, save for the fact that it’s a little bit worse. Colors are muted, flowers and stars don’t exist, family and friends are absent, and smiling is literally a physical impossibility; all Zia can do is rent a crummy apartment with an annoying roommate and snag a job working at a pizza shop. In this limbo between life and death, Zia spends all of his time painfully missing his ex-girlfriend, until he meets a young Russian man named Eugene (Shea Whigham). The two develop a sort of friendship and, when Zia discovers that Desiree has also killed herself, set off on a journey in Eugene’s car to look for her. Once on the road, they pick up a hitchhiker by the name of Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who claims that she doesn’t belong there and is seeking the “People In Charge” so she can return to Life. They discover a small camp set up in the middle of the desert headed by a strange man named Kneller (Tom Waits), where insignificant miracles, such as cigarettes floating away, constantly take place. The trio at first find comfort in this strange camp, until a closeness begins to grow between Zia and Mikal and they’re both reminded that new love is not what they’re seeking, and they must leave the camp to seek what they cannot let go.
A character flashes back to her suicide using a gas oven.
Review: Wristcutters: A Love Story is, above all else, a unique film that tackles the controversial issue of suicide without becoming too preachy or heavy handed. Appropriately ambiguous — you never know if the post-suicide world is Limbo or a direct level of Hell — yet straightforward, Wristcutters is full of diverse and quirky characters, from Zia, the depressive lead, to Nanuk, the mute Inuit who throat-sings. Some of my favorite scenes in the film showed the characters’ bodies after their suicides, which was often quite haunting and artistically shot. I found that each post-suicide shot revealed major flaws within the characters: one girl (see above) leaves a bitter note and kills herself in the middle of her house, showing that she’s spiteful and self-pitying, while Nanuk is seen surrounded by beers bottles after having purposefully frozen to death, a reflection of her desperate nature. In respect to the soundtrack: it’s strange and somewhat average save for a few songs, but helps to set the mood of each scene. Also, the cinematography is often quite beautiful and memorable.
Performance-wise, Patrick Fugit played the part of Zia appropriately, though I didn’t find his character to be the most interesting or challenging, while Shannyn Sossoman portrayed the spunky and stubborn Mikal quite well, and Tom Waits created a loveable and fatherly character. However, the performance that I really loved was that of Shea Whigham — the character that he created is, in my opinion, the only aspect of the film that was really funny despite its promise to be a “dark comedy,” for Eugene is so overtly self-absorbed, eccentric, and just plain fun to watch that I found myself turning to him for comic relief. I also liked Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame’s cameo as a crazed religious leader.
Though I personally found this film to be unique, it is in no way for everyone. Yes, its characters are engaging, its plot interesting, and its technical aspects fulfilling, but it is not as funny as advertised. For one thing, many of the post-suicide scenes are quitedepressing, though gore is used sparingly. Also, the world is, as I’ve let on, a complete downer: the idea of existing, looking as you did after your death (with slit wrists, a sickly complexion, etc.), without a purpose or the ability to laugh, is in no way lighthearted, and the characters never quite accept their fate. For those who enjoy indie films that are in the left field, I do recommend this for its well-written story and characters, but, for those who simply cannot see past the suicidal aspect, this is probably not the film for you. Thought-provoking, Wristcutters: A Love Story is, overall, a well done story that follows troubled people as they learn one of life’s most difficult lessons: when we should hold on and when we need to let go.