This review discusses dark topics such as death and suicide. Reader discretion advised.
Getting comedy right is difficult enough, let alone trying to do it with sensitive topics. But Dead In A Week (or your money back) hits the nail on the head. After several failed suicide attempts, William (Aneurin Barnard) signs a contract with veteran assassin Leslie (Tom Wilkinson), who promises he’ll be dead within the week. This simple concept results in 1 hour and 30 mins of pure entertainment.
Though explicit in the way it discusses suicide, there is a reason for this. Right from the start, William is positioned as an incredibly depressed, isolated failed writer, who is struggling to see the point in living. He is very open about this fact, and spends a lot of time planning ways he could do it, accompanied by a darkly funny montage of the ways he’s tried. He is a troubled character that you can’t help but feel sorry for.
What makes this film even more interesting is the way it makes you sympathise with both target and killer. Leslie is trying his best to avoid retirement, and sees William as an answer to his prayers. If he kills him, he’ll fill his quota, and all will be well. This creates a paradox where you want both men to succeed, but you know that’s impossible.
William changes his mind about the contract when a publisher takes interest in his novel, and he begins to fall in love with Ellie (Freya Mavor), the assistant who called him regarding his latest story. This encounter comes with some rather frank and heartwarming messages about life, reminding us how precious life can be if you give it a chance.
Of course, the film doesn’t just end there. After William’s 360, Leslie is having none of it, and for the rest of the film we see this young writer trying to outrun a seasoned assassin. Leslie’s boss Harvey (Christopher Eccleston) is hot on his tail as well, tired of giving the old man too many chances. It’s a classic tale of a failed assassin, flipped entirely on its head.
Filled with some brilliant twists and turns, the script is formulaic yet hugely entertaining, with some laugh out loud moments throughout. It will certainly appeal to those who like their humour a little darker, with its use of comedic timing and deadpan delivery. It addresses so much in a short space of time, adding depth where needed.
Leslie’s wife Penny (Marion Bailey) adds her own comic relief to the situation, with a delightful satire on middle-class culture. Whilst her husband is trying to keep a dangerous job he loves so much, she’s more concerned about beating her church rivals in a cushion competition. The parallels between the couple are simultaneously heartwarming and awkward, and I enjoyed the way they bounced off each other throughout.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable film, with some unexpectedly touching moments. I really connected with certain characters and loathed others, allowing me to become fully invested in the film. The encounter between these two men should have ended one way, but the two embark on a journey that changes their lives for the better. Underneath all the humour comes an understanding of mental health issues, and sympathy for those who struggle.
This was Tom Edmund’s feature length debut, after directing a few short films. It’s an impressive first film with good pacing, solid characters, and a well-polished look throughout. It was an ambitious first feature length, but it certainly delivered.
The film is available for UK digital download today, 6th May 2019. Watch the trailer below: