Don’t worry, it’s not as depressing as it sounds.
This is what I was promised when a copy of Wristcutters was eagerly thrust into my hand at my local video store. I cautiously took her at her word but I was worried. Of all the possible ways for someone to “off themself”, wristcutting is my least favourite- probably because of my squeamishness about blood. So, if this is not only going to be a movie about someone cutting themselves but SEVERAL people cutting themselves (as the title seems to promise), then we’re going to have a problem.
It turns out that all the bleeding happens during the opening credits. Depressed and heartbroken after a break-up, Zia (Patrick Fugit) takes his own life but not before throughly cleaning his apartment. To his dismay, the last thing he sees is one lone dust bunny in the corner of his bathroom. It’s a powerful scene in what I interpreted as the last seconds of panic once it’s too late to go back.
The rest of the film takes place in a strange corner of the afterlife set aside specifically for those who offed themselves (the movie’s words, not mine). It’s not quite Hell. As Zia explains, everything is just the same as before, just a little bit worse. They still have to work, pump gas, clean the apartment etc. Everything looks the same, just a little grayer. And no one can smile anymore.
I was not misled. Wristcutters is not as depressing as it sounds. Wristcutting- and suicide in general- are mostly incidental to the story and the discussion of the topic is limited to a game that people play in this world where people try and guess how someone did it (usually accompanied by a darkly comic flashback). Even this device is quickly abandoned when Zia hits the road with a hitchiker looking to appeal her case and be sent back to the land of the lving (Shannyn Sossamon) and a failed Russian musician with nothing better to do (a very funny Shea Whigham).
Wristcutters is often funny and gets a lot of mileage out of the chemistry between Fugit and Whigham but Wristcutters felt like a missed opportunity. So many of us are touched by suicide and yet most people aren’t comfortable really talking about it. What better way to talk about it than in a comedy with a setting where everyone has this one thing in common. I found myself ironically wishing that it was more depressing or at least more sick, more daring in what it was willing to address directly, and more creative. Apart from the tone, which is more self-consciously quirky than actually unique, we get a surprisingly generic road movie and love story with the tragedy of teen suicide merely providing the context andn eye-catching title.