Wristcutters: A Love Story

Murder in film is positively passé (as is saying things are passé, for that matter) – we’re comfortably inoculated against caring when we see someone get stabbed, shot or torn in half on the big screen. Suicide, however, is a very different story. It is arguably one of the last real taboos, and it is certainly hugely difficult to discuss, which is what makes Wristcutters: A Love Story different; not only does the lead character top himself, so does everybody else.

Zia (Fugit) is a miserable young man who opens the film in fine style by slitting his wrists. Charming. He collapses, dies and reawakens in a world which is almost exactly like this one, but ever so slightly worse – there are no flowers or stars, and nobody can smile. It is populated entirely by suicides, such as Eugene (Whigham), a rock star who poured beer into his electric guitar onstage; Zia and Eugene slip into a drunken and meaningless routine, but when Zia finds out from a recently deceased friend that his girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb) has also offed herself they set out to track her down. On the way they meet hitchhiker and accidental suicide Mikal (Sossamon) and eccentric commune leader Kneller (Tom Waits), and Zia starts to question who he really wants to spend his afterlife with…

As a concept, Wristcutters is intriguing and original. However, it is hamstrung by a storyline which fails to develop the more interesting ramifications of the world depicted by the film – what could have been an interesting commentary on the nature of suicide becomes a formulaic road movie with an odd setup. The script is similarly odd, with all the effort going into will-they-won’t-they romantic dialogues and crisp one-liners; comparatively little screen time is given to discussing the protagonists’ predicament (which they all seem to adjust to suspiciously well). A reliable cast goes some way towards making the film seem more meaningful than it is, and Tom Waits is as usual the star of every scene he appears in, but I couldn’t help feeling that Wristcutters shouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t going to address the issue around which it revolves.

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