Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) movie review: the dying isn’t easy (but the comedy is)

Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This unexpectedly gentle black comedy about depression and suicide gets the tone just right, and could prompt as many empathetic conversations as it does compassionate laughs.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

William (the charming Aneurin Barnard: Dunkirk) wants to kill himself. But he’s as crap at that as he must be as a writer: why else would no one want to publish the book he’s written about his numerous (and obviously failed) suicide attempts? So he settles on death for real this time: he hires hitman Leslie (the also — and unexpectedly — charming Tom Wilkinson: The Titan) to do the job for him. It’s a service that Leslie has had to branch out into now that crazed Eastern Europeans have taken over the murder-for-hire field in London. Leslie has a contract for William to sign and everything, and if William isn’t dead in a week, he’ll get a refund. All fair and square. But what if William changes his mind? Well, that could be a problem, because Leslie has a quota to fill at the assassin’s guild, and his boss (Christopher Eccleston: Legend ) is a bit of a hardass…

Let’s be honest: not everyone a hitman kills will want to be dead.
Let’s be honest: not everyone a hitman kills will want to be dead.

With his feature debut, British writer-director Tom Edmunds has achieved a small miracle: he’s made a black comedy that’s actually gentle. (If asked previously, I would have said there’s no such thing as a gentle black comedy. But here we are.) What’s more, he’s made a comedy about suicide and mental illness that gets the tone just right, one that doesn’t make light of depression or self-destructive impulses but instead wrestles with the seemingly contradictory appeal of them. Head-on, as with the conversation William has with book editor Ellie (Freya Mavor) — she is suddenly interested in his book; hope can crop up when you least expect it — dissecting why contemplation of death can be so seductive. But also side-on, too: Edmunds fills Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) with absurdist details that pop up delightfully and nudge the movie just over the border into a realm of near-fantasy. One in which talking about despair and death is a lot easier and a lot more frank than it is in the real world. Dead in a Week could prompt as many empathetic conversations as it does easy, compassionate laughs.

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