Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
wilbur This comic Scottish film (made by Danish filmmakers) tells a story of life, love and death that seriously gets under our skin due to a sensitive, insightful script and terrific performances from the entire cast. After his latest suicide attempt, Wilbur (Sives) moves in with his older brother Harbour (Rawlins) at the back of the family-run bookshop in Glasgow. The brothers couldn't be more different; Wilbur is darkly charming and deeply unambitious, while Harbour is optimistic, cheery and energetically efficient. Harbour has dedicated his life to caring for their ill father, who has recently died, and how he has to take care of Wilbur. He suggests that Wilbur find a girlfriend, but it's Harbour who finds love with Alice (Henderson), a mousy woman with a pre-teen daughter (McKinlay). These four characters form themselves into an inseparable family, but one of them has a secret that's just too scary to talk about.

Yes, the story is very serious, with a shadow of death and loneliness hanging over every scene. Yet the characters are so beautifully written and played that they spring to life, bringing with them natural rhythms of life and humour that keeps us smiling right through to the emotional conclusion. It's a remarkable achievement for Sherfig (Italian for Beginners), a gifted filmmaker who proves her skills in the English language with a delicate, witty script and visceral, lush direction that combine to draw us deeply into the lives of these characters. And they're all played note-perfect. Sives is especially impressive in a very difficult role; he looks a bit like Russell Crowe crossed with Colin Farrell, but plays it with a remarkable combination of introspection and impeccable comic timing. Rawlins is equally superb as the two-pronged Harbour--outwardly happy and inwardly tortured, just trying to get on with life as best he can. Meanwhile, there's a series of stunningly well-drawn side characters who liven things up considerably ... and add textures that make the film even more meaningful and moving. Don't let the title put you off; this is one of the most wonderfully life-affirming films you'll see all year.

cert 15 strong adult themes, language 6.Aug.03

dir Lone Scherfig
scr Lone Scherfig, Anders Thomas Jensen
with Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson, Lisa McKinlay, Mads Mikkelsen, Julia Davis, Susan Vidler, Gordon Brown, Robert McIntosh, Lorraine McIntosh, Mhairi Steenbock, Coral Preston
release US 17.Oct.03; UK 5.Dec.03
03/UK-Denmark 1h49

Bedtime story: McKinlay and Sives.

sives henderson

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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... wilbur Judith Menzel, Germany: 1 out of 5 stars "What a horribly pretending-to-be-human film! The message that comes across to me is such rubbish! I very much liked Italian for Beginners; I also like the Scandinavian Dogme films, their directors and the actors in this film. Having once worked in Glasgow I was curious to watch the movie. Only the message behind it all made me furious: Those who have all the advantages anyway don't realize it and exploit others who are less advantaged and more altruistic. This film obviously says that this is the way it has to be and we better accept that. Why does Harbour not become bloody furious at his spoilt brother and his ungrateful wife? Sorry, but I don't quite get this charming, human touch." (8.Nov.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall