Wilbur (Wants to Kill Himself)
|Keywords||Cancer, Caregivers, Death and Dying, Depression, Disease and Health, Family Relationships, Grief, Hospitalization, Illness and the Family, Love, Mother-Daughter Relationship, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Suffering, Suicide|
This film by Danish filmmakers focuses on two Scots, Wilbur (Jamie Sives) and his older, considerate brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), who own a family buy-and-sell bookshop, North Books, in Glasgow. The opening movie credits intersperse with Wilbur's suicide attempt by pills and gassing himself. Wilbur's attempt is thwarted first by the fact that he has to put more coins into the apartment gas meter, and then by his brother, whom Wilbur had telephoned just before losing consciousness. Wilbur continues suicide attempts throughout much of the movie, with methods that range from the absurd to the disturbingly tragic.
The brothers' father had recently died and several scenes occur at a hillside cemetery. Surrounded by imposing stone monuments, the brothers' parents are buried without markers, but with a view, if you cock your head and imagine, of the bookshop. The tragedy of the mother's death when Wilbur was only 5 years old, is invoked to explain much of Wilbur's disturbance.
Early in the movie, Alice (Shirley Henderson), a waif-like single mother who cleans the operating and trauma theatres and sells books she finds at the hospital to the bookshop, is introduced, along with her soon to be 9 year old daughter, Mary (Lisa McKinlay). Alice and Harbour wed, and Mary presciently plunks a penguin eraser she has just received atop the wedding cake next to the bride and groom: "That's Wilbur," she says.
Two hospital workers feature prominently in the film. Horst (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Danish ex-pat physician and "senior psychologist." He chain smokes, distances himself from the group therapy he supposedly supervises, and yet deftly discusses bad news with Harbour in several scenes. The psychiatric nurse, Moira (Julia Davis), however, who, with ever-changing hairstyles and inappropriate nurse-patient interactions, acts primarily as comic relief, delivers the same bad news with unthinking, devastating directness.
This intense, complex drama is told with an eye towards the comic and ironic. The characters are multi-dimensional and empathic, the writing fresh, the score enhancing. Alice speaks for the audience and angrily declares after one of Wilbur's suicide attempts, "One day he's going to succeed. How dare he?" And yet, Wilbur is charismatic, capable of love and caring. This underpinning of love provides the much-needed framework for the struggles, deceptions, anxiety, and tensions of the story.
This film could be useful for a mature class studying psychiatric and end-of-life issues.
|Leading Actors||Julia Davis, Shirley Henderson, Lisa McKinlay, Mads Mikkelsen, Adrian Rawlins, Jamie Sives|
|Running Time||105 minutes|
|Video Source||Sundance Channel Home Entertainment (2004)|
|Miscellaneous||MPAA Rating R for language and some disturbing images|
|Annotated by||Shafer, Audrey|
|Date of Entry||04/25/05|