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A quietly charming indie film based on Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s novella Kneller’s Happy Campers, Wristcutters: A Love Story follows recent suicide Zia (Patrick Fugit) and his journey through a limbo set aside for those who kill themselves. This world is only slightly different from life, except the color is muted, there are no flowers or stars, and no one can smile. After spending some time in this world, Zia meets Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian rock star, and Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who claims she didn't kill herself and is trying to get back to the living world. The three of them set off into this depressing dimension in order to find Zia's ex-girlfriend, who has also killed herself, and the People In Charge, who have the power to send Mikal back.

Despite what you think, it's definitely not an emo film.

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This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: While overall very faithful to "Kneller's Happy Campers," in the original story Mikal (Leehee in the story) gets returned to life while Zia (Mordy) goes back to work at Kamikaze Pizza, never to see her again but content to remember her.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the short story, Zia is "Mordy," Mikal is "Leehee," and Eugene is "Uzi."
  • Ate His Gun: Nick Offerman’s police officer is shown in a flashback to have done this as a soldier in The Vietnam War.
  • Black Comedy: Very much so. For example, near the start of the movie Zia, two girls, and Eugene pass the time by guessing how other people at the bar offed themselves.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy / Council of Angels: The People In Charge has shades of this (notably the small white feathers that fall out of the file Kneller picks up at the end).
  • Chekhov's Gun:
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    • "If a girl says she'll just be five minutes, she's not coming back". Later, Mikal says she'll be just five minutes to Zia when she goes off with the PIC, but then everything gets sorted out and she leaves without having said goodbye to Zia
    • The black hole under the seats of Eugene's car.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Pizzeria Kamikaze, itself based on "Kneller's Happy Campers."
  • Crapsack World: Crosses over with Mundane Afterlife and Scenery Gorn, as the cinematography shows how drab and lifeless this limbo is.
  • Creator Cameo: Fittingly, director Goran Dukic plays one of the People In Charge.
  • Cult: The Messiah King (played by Will Arnett) has hundreds of followers, at least one of whom killed themselves after the King's attempt to "separate his soul from his body" just killed him.
  • Cute Mute: Nanuk. She occasionally sings, but she never speaks.
  • Dead to Begin With: Since the movie is about an afterlife for suicide victims, yes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The protagonists get mixed up with a cult, whose leader claims that they must kill themselves again in order to reach the afterlife.
  • Dream Apocalypse: After his trip down the Rabbit Hole, Zia wakes up in a hospital bed sometime after he offed himself, the adventure in limbo seemingly a figment of his imagination. Subverted when he notices Mikal on the bed next to him, and they both smile at each other.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Something of a Deus ex Machina since Zia, who deliberately killed himself, gets returned to life via Kneller's status as a PIC.
  • Electrified Bathtub: While not exactly this, Eugene pouring his beer onto his guitar runs on the same principle.
  • Everyone Can See It:
    Kneller: Why don't you tell [Mikal]?
    Zia: Tell her what?
    Kneller: That you love her.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The PIC stands for People In Charge.
  • Funny Background Event: During Kneller's crooked tree story, there's a man who looks an awful lot like Hunter S. Thompson sitting behind Zia and Mikal.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Only one suicide victim (a woman Zia meets at the bar) is shown via flashback as having left a note. See Spiteful Suicide below for its contents.
  • Instrument of Murder: Eugene electrocutes himself with an electric guitar and a bottle of beer.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Kostya's post-soccer meltdown. Eugene finds him with a noose around his neck and talks him into getting down off the table.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Go on, try to say the title next time you're talking to someone, and see if you don't get looks.
  • Ironic Hell: So, you killed yourself to escape failure, loss, rejection, crushing ennui, or other general horribleness of real life... and you end up in another life that's largely the same only a tiny bit worse. It doesn't get more cruelly appropriate than that for someone out to escape a life already sapped of reason to live.
  • Love at First Sight: Eugene spends most of the road trip hitting on Mikal, but one look at Nanuk and he’s a goner.
  • Meaningful Name: Desiree is the object of Zia's desire.
  • Momma's Boy: Eugene is close with his entire family, but it's specifically noted he calls his mother whenever the trio comes across a phone on their roadtrip.
  • Mythology Gag: In the short story, Kneller asks the main trio to call him by his first name, “Rafi,” while in movie he asks that nobody call him by his first name. (“My mom used to call me ‘Rafe.’ Don’t get me started.”)
  • Only One Name: Desiree (Randolph) and (Rafe) Kneller are the only characters in the movie with last names.
  • Percussive Prevention: How Eugene handles his little brother's post-soccer meltdown.
  • The Power of Apathy: The Crapsack World the film takes place in has a number of rules that make it banal and devoid of any satisfaction, one being that anyone can cause a miracle to happen, but only if they don't care whether it does.
  • Powers That Be: Mikal is on a mission to find the People In Charge of the afterlife since she thinks she's there by mistake. Zia and Eugene are doubtful such authorities even exist, but she ends up being right.
  • Race Lift: From Israeli to generically American. Especially noticeable with the Arab taxi driver.
  • Road Trip Plot: The plot kicks off with Zia convincing Eugene to drive him to find Desiree in The City.
  • Running Gag: Zia keeps dropping things under his seat in Eugene's car, to the point that Eugene asks him if he's doing it on purpose.
  • Shout-Out: Eugene is based on Eugene Hütz, the lead singer of Gogol Bordello. Indeed, the music that Eugene's band "recorded" is actually Gogol Bordello.
  • Shrug Take: Zia seems to take the whole idea of a black hole in his friend's car pretty well.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Zia, of all characters!
  • Spiteful Suicide: The woman Zia meets at the bar near the start left behind a note that simply said, “Are you sorry now?”
  • Starts with a Suicide: Obviously, there wouldn’t be a movie without it.
  • Suicide Attack: Eugene thinks this is how the Arab taxi driver got there.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: At Kneller's camp, Zia is repeatedly told that he can't perform a miracle, like floating in the air or changing an object's color, unless he stops caring about performing one. Meanwhile, everyone else performs miracles around him because they don't see it as a big deal. After Mikal leaves, the miracles no longer matter to him, so naturally, he performs one - the same miracle Mikal nonchalantly performed earlier.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: One exists as a pocket black hole under the seats of Eugene's car.
  • Together in Death: The two mechanics who look at Eugene’s car early on killed themselves together in a hot tub.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Eugene's brother tried to kill himself for the first time when he was really young.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Zia, Eugene, and Mikal. It doesn't quite veer into Love Triangle territory since Zia is focused on finding Desiree while Eugene has a crush on Mikal, and later Eugene gets a girlfriend at Kneller's camp while Zia realizes he has feelings for Mik.
  • Urban Fantasy: It takes place in an afterlife that's the Crapsack World version of ours, but small miracles do happen, like fish changing colour and a match floating up the sky and becoming a star. You just have to not care about it...
  • Wham Line:
    Kneller: (pulling a walkie-talkie out of his pocket) We’re at the compound. I need backup.

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