Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)

 

After 27-year-old William (Aneurin Barnard) fails at his ninth attempt at suicide, he decides to take up a genial 65-year-old hitman, Leslie (the ever-excellent Tom Wilkinson), on his offer to help out. Leslie has quotas to meet to keep his membership in an assassin’s guild, but when William meets the woman of his dreams (Freya Mavor) things get more complicated for both men. An engaging black comedy also starring Christopher Eccleston.

The film opens with our lead character Williams latest attempt to kill himself, this time by attempting to jump off of Tower Bridge in London, as he is preparing to make the leap he is approached by a soft spoken older gentleman, played by Tom wilkinson offering to help, William rejects his offer but takes business card. He is then left alone to finally fall to his death, spoilers he fails. He heads home and next day loses his job, attempts suicide again, fails and finally remembers the business card an arranges to meet Leslie O’Neil: Assassin.

This is a strange film, the subject matter would lead you to believe that it is at the very least a very dark comedy but it plays out far more silly way. The humour of this film ranges from slapstick to absurd which makes for an enjoyable feel good movie, that ends up being more about learning to live, than how to die. The mundanity of the guild of assassins with standard “retail” targets and endless paperwork is ludicrously absurd and Williams attempts to kill himself are more like the looney tunes guide to suicide than anything approaching reality. This all results in a quirky comedy that unfortunately feels like it should have gone darker, the humour is too light and silly and like I said earlier slapstick. Charming and likeable performances from the 2 male leads and I think the female supporting actors were excellent but both, Marion Bailey as Leslie’s wife Penny and Freya Mavor as Ellie are underused and their characters are left feeling rather flat and underdeveloped. I never once felt that the deaths suicide attempts were much more than a slapstick punchline like a trap set up by Wylie Coyote and whilst I think intention was to maybe use this as a way to remove the stigma surrounding talking about suicide, but the world this film inhabits doesn’t feel real so the issues don’t feel real.

I enjoyed the movie for what it was but I feel that it should really have leaned into the darker comedy aspects rather than the cartoony side, as this doesn’t really give the subject matter the weight that it perhaps requires.

★★★ (and a half)

Euan Tennant

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