The chronically suicidal Wilbur and his good-hearted big brother Harbour are in their thirties, when their father dies, leaving them with nothing but a worn down second-hand bookshop in Glasgow. Wilbur survives yet another... more » suicide attempt and goes to the hospital, where he meets Horst a cynical psychologist and his empathic head nurse, Moira. Like Harbour, they believe that Wilbur needs a girlfriend. But even though women fall for Wilbur all the time, they can't get close to him. In fact, it is Harbour who falls in love when a shy and intense woman, Alice, enters the lives of the brothers. Alice lives a life in isolation with her little daughter, Mary. She supplements her job as a cleaning lady at the hospital's surgical ward, selling books that the patients have left behind. Little by little, Wilbur, Harbour and Alice become inseparable. Wilbur starts regaining his lust for life, Alice starts to come out of her shell, and Mary starts reading the thousands of books in the second-hand bookshop. Harbour has never been happier, but he carries a deep secret that threatens to surface.« less
Darwin H. (movienut) from BLOOMINGTON, MN Reviewed on 3/19/2008...
This is the story of two brothers. Wilbur, who hides a dark secret from his past and makes several attempts to commit suicide. And his brother Harbour who divides his time between runnning a quaint little financially troubled used book store and trying to keep his brother Wilbur alive. It is set in Scotland though there are very few outdoor scenes.
If you are looking for wide outdoor shots of this beautiful country this is the wrong choice. If you are looking for a quirky little black comedy that will make you think and laugh at the same time then this is the right choice. Any movie that can simultaneously tackle three very serious issues without seeming forced and still end up making you feel good about life's possibilities by the end is quite an accomplishment.
The characters are all interesting and you end up caring about what happens to them. The acting is strong across the board, especially the two brothers. The supporting cast was also good with even the young girl who plays Mary doing a very commendable job. The only down side was that the characters speak with a decided Scottish brogue and occasionally it was a "wee bit" difficult trying to understand them.
Overall though an excellent movie that I could easily watch again. Give it a chance and let me know what you think.
This has been a movienut "no spoilers" quick review.
5 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Transforming a Taboo Subject into a Tender Film
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lone Scherfig is a Danish director with a keen sense of character development that allows her to create a film about suicide and cancer into a lovely comedy/drama that walks the thin line of credibility and taste with complete assurance and success. Co-written with Anders Thomas Jensen WILBUR (WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF) is a story that not only appears to be an absurd topic for a film much less a comedy (albeit a dark comedy), it is a tale about family, relationships, human needs, and love that ably touches us at every turn.
Gloomy Glasgow, Scotland is the setting (cinematographer Jørgen Johansson never lets us forget the impact of the weather on the story) and the primary stage is a Used Bookstore owned by brothers Wilbur (Jamie Sives) and Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), the only remnant of their recently departed father's estate. The store is a shambles with Harbour buying more books than he sells: he is that kind of a compassionate person. Wilbur has spent his life trying unsuccessfully to commit suicide since the brothers' mother's death when they were children. We slowly learn that the mother favored Wilbur and while Wilbur's presence hold a strange magnetic attraction for women, Wilbur is unable to partner. He tries suicide by overdose, hanging, jumping off rooftops, slitting his wrists, etc only to be constantly saved by his loving brother Harbour.
Wilbur is in therapy with a chain-smoking doctor Horst (Mads Mikkelson) assisted by a zany, man-desperate nurse Moira (Julia Davis) who even courts suicide victims such as Wilbur in her need for a man. Harbour runs the bookstore, one of his steady clients being Alice (Shirley Henderson), a nurse's aide at the hospital where she cleans floors to support her and her pre-teen daughter Mary (Lisa McKinlay), a committed book lover. Alice visits the bookstore daily to sell books she has gleaned at the hospital to the always receptively warm Harbour. When Alice looses her job at the hospital she is hired by Harbour to organize the bookstore and soon Harbour and Alice fall in love and marry in a Chinese restaurant in a hilarious scene organized by the waiter (Chun-Wah Tsang) whose brogue is thicker than anyone else's! Harbour, Alice, and Mary have found happiness and Alice insists that Wilbur move in with them.
The 'family' works (with Alice and Wilbur having an encounter which bonds them closely) until Harbour is discovered to have pancreatic cancer and reluctantly begins chemotherapy with Dr. Horst. The way this crucial development alters the lives of everyone is the climax of the story and while it is fairly predictable, the writing is so fine that to give further details would be an injustice to the viewers.
Each of the relatively unknown actors gives radiantly alive and complex performances. Wilbur would seem a difficult persona to tolerate, but in Jamie Sives' hands (and of course with the intelligent direction of Scherfig) this miscreant character has us firmly in his hand from the beginning. This is an intelligent and warmly tender film that explores the human need for love and for belonging. The only criticism is the lack of English subtitles: the pitch perfect Scottish accents manage to bury much of the bright dialogue for non-Scotsmen's ears! Very Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 05"
Bill Forsythe meets Ingmar Bergman
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 04/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the quirky title, this is not a "black comedy" in the "Harold and Maude" vein (although the opening scene in "Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself" IS suspiciously similar to the opening scene in "Harold and Maude"!) The film is actually an interesting blend of tearjerker, subtle adult sex comedy and what used to be referred to as (forgive me) "heartwarming family drama" (but without the schmaltz). Think a Scottish "Terms of Endearment", with more believable characters and less mugging from the actors. The Danish director and her mostly Scottish cast does an impressive job of delivering a fairly large number of characters but still managing to make us care about what happens to all of them; the type of skilled ensemble work that puts this one in the Mike Leigh/Atom Egoyan league. Highly recommended. P.S. For the sake of those who have not seen this film yet, shame on all the reviewers trumpeting major "spoilers" in the first paragraph of thier reviews!"
Tough subjects handled with care
Margaux Paschke | New York | 02/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought it was a brilliant film but not a lighthearted one. I will not provide too much detail as it would ruin the surprises it has in store for the viewer.
This movie packs a seriously emoional punch and it stays with you long after you watch it. One of the main characters, Wilbur, is constantly trying to kill himself. After seeing how unhappy and selfish Wilbur acts, I was thinking that everyone would be better off if he just suceeded already. But I was horrified to later discover the possible cause of Wilbur's constant black moods. We learn that as a child, Wilbur's mother was sickly and constantly escaped her hospital bed to get home to her family only to be dragged back by her husband so she could survive that much longer. The dad told his two small sons that their mom couldn't stay home - it would kill her. In the middle of a cold winter's night, only Wilbur heard the mother knocking on their door. As she was only wearing a thin hospital gown and Wilbur was too afraid to let her in because he thought she would drop dead (his father's words were taken very literally in his child's mind), she froze to death outside their front door. This event changed them all. The father's guilt over what happened, Wilbur's guilt over killing his mother and his older brother's constant sacrifices at his own expense to hold his remaining family together.
Present day finds this family down to the two brothers, Harbour and Wilbur, and we all know one of them is looking for a fast exit. This movie is layered with so many emotional subjects that hit the viewer hard. This story is only too real as we watch Alice (the love interest) struggle with poverty and take care of her daughter all on her own, Harbour not being able to help his Wilbur as he struggles with his inner demons, and Wilbur being hostile to everyone as he lashes out, the male psychiatrist's father/son issues, and every character's loneliness. The scene where Wilbur is off-handedly cruel to Alice's lonely friend from her old job is heartbreaking.
No surprise that the story ends with just one remaining family member. But, it does manage to end on a note of hope. This one family member is not alone, he is rebuilding a family of his own and he owes it all to his brother. The bond of love between family members can be healing, even the deepest of wounds.
A haunting film that stays with you and I highly recommend it but you have to be in the mood for it. "
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 05/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wilbur (a wry, sad Jamie Sives) wants out of Life in a bad way and he tries several ways to accomplish his goal: pills, head in oven, slit wrists but he never quite succeeds often due to his personal angel and brother Harbour (a terrific Adrian Rawlins). Director and screenwriter, Lone Scherfig (the ironic, witty, intelligent "Italian for Beginners") packs "Wilbur" with a number of very serious topics: suicide, terminal illness, infidelity and proceeds to deal with them in a manner that can only be described as ironic: irony with a very light, though often tragic and humane touch. Schefig's mise en scene is thick and heavy with the detritus of her characters troubled and out-of-whack lives and even when a woman enters Wilbur and Harbour's life...the winsome Shirley Henderson as Alice things do not get much better but only more complicated. Scherfig has crafted a very sad, troubling film about people caught up in the past who never quite grow out of that particular quagmire of guilt, shame and remorse. "Wilbur" is a difficult movie to comprehend much less love but nonetheless there is much to admire here for anyone looking for the intriguing and unusual. "
A unique Scottish/Danish blend of black, black humor
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 01/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself," writer/director Dogma 95 adherent Lone Scherfig follows in the footsteps of Lars von Trier's masterpiece "Breaking the Waves" by crafting a film imbued with a black Scottish/Danish inflection. But where von Trier's vision is uniformly bleak, Scherfig penetrates the grey Edinburgh sky with rays of hope. Who knew a movie about suicide could be so uplifting?
If you saw and loved Scherfig's delightful "Italian for Beginners," you know of her brilliance with actors. That talent shows here - Shirley Henderson, Adrian Rawlins and Jamie Sives are magnificent in depicting the leading triumverate.
But, even beyond the three stars, there are neat things to find. Supporting actresses Julia Davia and Susan Vidler are classically trained British actresses of repute. Davis won a best supporting actress nomination for her portrayal of quirky nurse/alternative medicine 'student' Moira. And, watching doctor 'Horst' as portrayed by one Mads Mikkelsen...you got the feeling there was something special about this guy.
There is. This is Denmark's leading leading man. As imdb.com notes, "several polls in magazines and newspapers have voted him sexiest man in Denmark." It's always neat to find nice surprises like this tucked into an already enjoyable movie.
So, don't be dissuaded by the awful title. Rent or buy 'Wilbur' as soon as you can. "