three people who are hard to describe and easy to love

WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


Before you decide you do not want to see a movie with the title ďWilbur Wants to Kill Himself,Ē you should decide to take a chance.  This is one of those ďsmall independentsĒ that follows a quirky path and ultimately becomes delicious.

We are in Scotland, in and out of a sprawling, rather messy second hand bookstore that seems to have just one customer Ė but this isnít about bookselling; itís about the store as the anchor for three people who are hard describe and easy to love. 

Wilbur (Jamie Sives) tries to gas himself in the kitchen, to hang himself in the attic, and to slit his wrists in the bathtub.  He is determined, but inept.  This man is a little too gentle, a little too awkward to pull any of this off.  He attends a suicide support group where frustration overwhelms him.  They are sick, you see, and Wilbur simply wants to join his parents in the cemetery on the hill. 

Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), who inherited the bookshop from his father, inherited also the role of protector.  When their mother died a sad death born of a family misunderstanding, the gentle Wilbur, who blamed himself, crawled into his older brotherís bed and spent the next years of his life holding on to him. 

Alice (Shirley Henderson) has just lost her job cleaning rooms in the hospital because she just canít quite be on time, canít quite get her work done.  To raise money to support her daughter, she tries to sell a few books to Harbour in his bookstore.  Harbour and Wilbur and Alice donít come together in any kind of a big way, they just drift toward each other, becoming a family in the process.  They come to love each other.  In the process, we watch both responsibility and love seep in through Wilburís pores.  He makes no decision to change;  it just happens, slowly, as we watch. 

There is in these people a core of kindness and patience, a sweetness that is irresistible.  They are innocents, isolated in the store and the hospital; they arenít engaged, any of them, in life in any kind of a real way.  We are never sidetracked by the mundane mechanics of their lives.  It doesnít matter how they eat or pay the rent.  They are alone, three people who take care of each other.  But it is Harbour who has an arm around each of the others, and when those arms weaken, what will happen?

The Danish director Lone Scherfig directed and co-wrote Ė with Anders Thomas Jenson Ė the story with the gentlest imaginable touch.  The actors respond in kind.  They create characters who are vulnerable, sweet, and pure.  We leave the theater shaking our heads in wonderment that somewhere there might be a group like this, wrapped in their own purity, untouched by the culture around them, who care about each other without the qualifiers most of us attach to our affections.


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