"Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself" is a very good, offbeat movie with a very bad, offbeat title. In some U.S. cities, Lone Scherfig's exceptional black dramatic comedy has simply been released as "Wilbur," but labels are difficult to affix to this charming oddball of a movie.
Previously working on the hospital's custodial staff, Alice finds solace in Harbour's bookstore. Before their brief courting period, she sold books to Harbour that had been left behind in the wards by grieving families. Her attraction to Harbour, whose metaphoric name surely isn't a coincidence, may be more about comfort than romantic love. Sexual tension between her and Wilbur only complicates matters.
Like Scherfig's "Italian for Beginners," to date the most charming and accessible of the stripped-down Dogma 95 films, "Wilbur" explores the delicate stitching that binds us together. Scherfig's drama embraces black-comic elements, especially as she brings us inside the snarky politics of a suicide-prevention group.
"Wilbur" is also an inadequate title because Scherfig's movie is an ensemble piece focusing on Wilbur, Harbour, Alice and her sensible daughter (Lisa McKinlay).
Mads Mikkelsen delivers a memorable turn as Harbour's chain-smoking doctor, Horst, and Julia Davis (amazing in the BBC's surreal comedy series "Jam") stars as Moira, Wilbur's girlfriend and perpetual provider of the socially awkward sentence.
Suggesting that the chronically depressed only need romantic love to pull them from unfathomable lows can be dangerous, especially when dealing with suicidal personalities. But Scherfig's movie plays more like a parable about family dynamics than couch therapy, making us laugh in the darkest places of human despair.
Then again, laughter is its own form of therapy.
"Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself"
Opens Friday. Running time: 1:49. MPAA rating: R (language and some disturbing images).