“The dog has spoken”
Goran Dukic’s Wristcutters: A Love Story is indie cinema to the core. With a plot concerning life in purgatory—an adequate punishment being that it is life as usual, but a little worse—and a band of suicides (or off’d people) trying to find love, answers, and a way out, this film laughs at the mainstream and succeeds as a result. Everyone involved is a kooky, crazy character with little screentime yet large meaning. Zia just could not take it anymore and decides to end it all by slitting his wrists. He wakes up in the afterlife right where he was left, a crappy job, a boring life, and a rundown town. Upon finding that his girlfriend killed herself shortly after him, Zia begins a trek to find her with his new friend Eugene, a Russian who actually lives in purgatory with his parents and brother (suicide is in the genes). The journey meanders into the weird and the weirder as they pick up a hitchhiker named Mikal, a girl who believes she doesn’t belong there, as they try to find a reason for existence, or non-existence as it were.
The comedy is just off-kilter enough and the story full of quirks and a preciousness that works for it rather than against. I’d love to check out the short story “Kneller’s Happy Campers” to see what kind of source material spawned this creation. While the story itself is unique and in a way very deep, delving into the philosophy of what life is, the director Dukic adds some visual flair and technique that only enhance it. Right from the start, with a long sequence involving Zia cleaning his messy room, only to end up killing himself upon completion, we know what is in store and also the craft that will be on display to show us everything that occurs. Not only that, but the final glimpse at the end of the scene speaks volumes of the messiness that life is, nothing is as clean-cut as one may initially anticipate. Zia goes through so much trouble to make his death perfect that it is only fitting for his final sight to be the two dust-bunnies he neglected to remove from the bathroom floor.
The acting is stellar across the board. Our three leads all have the depth of character to make us believe the situation they are in. Patrick Fugit breathes a depression and confusion of whether he was happy or not in life with the role of Zia. He realizes that he might have made a mistake, but also knows he will need to live with that decision. Shea Whigham, as Eugene, is very funny and a lynchpin for the proceedings. His back and forth with Fugit gives life to the story and helps show the evolution that these displaced souls go through upon their quest to find the “People In Charge”. As for Mikal, Shannyn Sossamon brings a beauty to an otherwise drab environment. In a world where people are unable to smile, her glow and drive to prove that she did not commit suicide knowingly is a welcome sight and crucial to Fugit’s character finding out the answers for which he didn’t even know he was searching.
This central core is great, for sure, but it is all the small parts on the periphery that shine above everything. Small touches like the Joy Division song playing in the bar in purgatory, (it would be interesting to see if all the music, besides the opening Tom Waits song, was created by bands and artists who had also committed suicide), and the remnants of each person’s death staying with their body show the care that went into the film. The lack of stars in the sky and really any sign of joy or happiness really envelope the characters and the audience with the necessary mood. And the supporting roles are absolutely brilliant. Waits himself brings a level of gravitas to the film as the mumbling sage Kneller with more hidden in his actions that at first thought; John Hawkes is hysterical as the moving faster than he can keep up with Yan; and the always fantastic Will Arnett as the Messiah, so over-the-top and similar to his “Arrested Development” role that you can’t help but smile.
Through all the success, there is one thing that really bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending, it was fitting and perfect; this is subtitled “A Love Story” after all. What I can’t accept are the consequences that the ending has on the rest of the film. If we are to believe that Zia does not end up dying, we must also come to the understanding that his girlfriend does not become friendly with the Messiah and subsequently kill herself. If this is true, then Zia does not begin his quest to find her in purgatory, thus negating him meeting Mikal in the afterlife, prompting him to return to reality. I guess one could argue that he waking up and falling for Mikal will ultimately lead his girlfriend into the arms of another man due to them breaking up, keeping the cycle alive in some regards, and maybe Waits’ character removing his file from the suicide shelf helps to seal off this rift, I just can’t quite wrap my head around accepting it fully. I am probably thinking about it too much, and unnecessarily for that matter, but I can’t help it because that was the last scene, and it stays with me the most.
With that said, though, I really liked this film. It had everything I look for in a movie, an escapist plot to a world unknown, characters with flaws and imperfections, dry humor and plenty of laughs, complete with a story that resonates and allows for intelligent conversation along with questions for each viewer to ask themselves about what they think the meaning of life could be. I will look past my one problem with the ending and tell myself that I enjoyed it fully and would recommend the film to anyone looking for something special and unlike anything else they may see on the video store shelves.
Wristcutters: A Love Story 8/10 | ★ ★ ★
 Patrick Fugit (“Zia,” left), Shea Whigham (“Eugene,” center) and Shannyn Sossamon (“Mikal,” right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.
 Patrick Fugit (“Zia”) stars in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.