Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Denmark/UK/Sweden/France; 111 min.)


directed by: Lone Scherfig
starring: Jamie Sives; Adrian Rawlins; Shirley Henderson
Wilbur wants to Kill Himself
 
Bruce says: "**SPOILERS AHEAD**

"Wilbur and his brother Harbour live behind the used bookstore which their late father had run for many years. Their mother died when Wilbur was just five. Wilbur was the favorite child of both his parents; his brother adores him as well. Wilbur teaches nursery school; the children idolize him. What’s all the fuss about Wilbur? Wilbur is one of those adults who has managed to remain a child. He brings out parental instincts in adults and delights small children with his simple straightforward manner. Wilbur is endearing. Everyone loves him but he does not love himself – in fact he cannot see the “self,” he can only feel the pain of emptiness. Wilbur wants to kill himself and he tries all sorts of methods: gas, rope, drowning, and wrist slashing. After each inept or discovered attempt, Wilbur finds himself in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. The nurse in the ward finds Wilbur irresistibly sexy; the doctor finds Wilbur exasperating.

"Harbour meets Alice (Shirley Henderson), a young woman who stops by the shop to sell some books. She cleans at the hospital and picks up books that patients leave behind. Soon wedding bells are ringing and Alice and her daughter Mary (Lisa McKinlay) move in. Soon Wilbur has fallen in love with his sister-in-law and she, with him.

"Several things happen to turn Wilbur around, so to speak. Harbour becomes terminally ill; as he lies in hospital Harbour tells Wilbur how their father grabbed his hand when he was dying and said 'Wilbur,' mistaking one son for the other. Wilbur rescues a woman who has put stones in her pockets and is sinking below the surface just as Wilbur passes by on the bridge above. Harbour commits suicide when he returns to hospital after a Christmas day pass to be with his family. While nothing is said, I suspect that Wilbur knows that his brother committed suicide and that his physical pain may not have been the sole reason. When Harbour dies Wilbur is faced with true responsibility for the first time in his life. Wilbur is left to care for Alice and Mary.

"We’ve all known someone like Wilbur, someone who can charm his or her way through life being taken care of and never taking on the responsibilities that a normal adult assumes as a natural part of the life cycle. Jamie Sives and Adrian Rawlins (BREAKING THE WAVES) are magnificent in their roles. As brothers they convince us of the love they share, the dependency they have on one another and the common history that has somehow molded them into two very different beings. Jamie Sives is the perfect Wilbur – charming, vulnerable, clueless and frightened. Shirley Henderson (WONDERLAND, TRAINSPOTTING, TOPSY-TURVY, and BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY) didn’t have the same spark she has displayed in some of her other films.

"Although I loved WILBUR, I wanted the film to be better than it is. I’m not insinuating the film is not slick enough. That fact that it is not is part of its charm. In the case of WILBUR the whole is better than the sum of its parts. But we must endure each part; we cannot skip forward or smooth out the rough patches. 4 cats"

 
Diane says: "I'm with Michael on this one: 4 cats and a bit darker than director Scherfig's ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS. The quality of the earlier film which comes through again is that of fragile, peculiar people finding hidden strength through love. As in ITALIAN, relationships are subtle and tentatively pursued. My only negative is that the final tragedy is accepted too easily by the characters in WILBUR.

"Nice score. Mads Mikkelson is in this, too, for fans of OPEN HEARTS -- a psychiatrist this time." 4 cats

 
Michael says: "Last weekend Scot and I took part in the Boston Film Festival to catch the latest film by Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS) WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF. Set in Scotland, Scherfig's wonderful new film deals with two brothers, and the woman who loves them both. Good-natured Harbour runs a used bookstore in a constant state of disarray, while watching over his charismatic younger brother Wilbur. Wilbur is a handful. He is continuously attempting suicide. Into their lives comes Alice, a hard-working, single mother who sells the books she finds in the operating theatre where she cleans, to Harbour to make a little extra money. One day she comes to the bookstore to find it empty, save for a near-dead Wilbur hanging from a noose. After saving his life, the three enter a relationship that is sweetly realistic.

"Scherfig does a wonderful job telling quirky stories about relationships. While Wilbur is a bit darker than the sublime ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, it maintains the dry, subtle humor of that film. The characters are all so likeable and the script truly draws you in.

"I highly recommend WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF, and look forward to its Boston release." 4 cats
 
Peg says: "I agree, everyone should see this one. I thought it was last year's best film...well, maybe after 28 DAYS LATER!!! but because of release dates it wil be incuded in this year's crop of nominees..."
 
Thom says: "This quirky and beautiful film by Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS) is a real find. It came and went in theatres here in San Francisco with little drawing power and was recently released on DVD with no fanfare. Count Scherfig among the growing number of notable female directors. This is a film about Wilbur, a suicidal type whose efforts to kill himself invariably fail, largely due to his more responsible brother Harbour. They both run a Glasgow family bookstore that never has many customers. They both end up falling in love with the same woman (Shirley Henderson, who is rapidly becoming one of the UK's best actors). I'm not acquainted with Jamie Sives, as Wilbur, but I'll look for him in the future as he assays this very difficult part with honour. Harbour is played by Adrian Rawlins, who you'll undoubtedly remember from his turn as Harry Potter's passed father in HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS & HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. This is one of those rare films where minor characters are also terrifically drawn. I wasn't a fan of ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS so this was a delightful surprise for me. 5 cats!"