William Morrison isn’t very good at suicide. With the number of attempts he has made, seven by his own count, ten including what he classes as “the cries for help,” all he needed was one success, but despite hanging, gassing, pills and booze, throwing himself into traffic – (un)fortunately being knocked down by an ambulance – and taking a bath with a toaster, every effort has failed.
Unemployed since the leisure centre let him go – it was felt having a suicidal lifeguard wasn’t reassuring to the bathers – William’s latest attempt to end it all by throwing himself off a bridge into the Thames was delayed when a stranger spoke to him just before he jumped, causing him to land gracelessly on a passing boat.
As fate would have it, the man, Leslie O’Neil, is an assassin who is down on his quota for the month and has to make up the numbers to remain within his guild, else he will also be forcibly retired. Meeting William to discuss his problem, Leslie makes him an offer and presents him with a contract: dead in a week or your money back.
With its UK premiere in the Best of British strand at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is appropriately an undeniably British film, a black comedy of manners as William tries to end himself quietly and without undue fuss or distress to anyone.
The arrangements made, in a moment a door opens and everything changes when Ellie Adams unexpectedly contacts William with regards to publishing his nihilistic novel and he has to ask for a postponement, causing inconvenience for the Les, genial and charming but a stickler for detail when a contract is in place.
Played by the dependable Tom Wilkinson, Les and his wife of more than thirty years, Penny (Marion Bailey), are supportive of each others lives and hobbies, an anchor for him when his senior at the British Guild of Assassins, Harvey (a stern and hot-tempered Christopher Eccleston) is less than pleased with the way the contract is unravelling.
Citadel‘s Aneurin Barnard believable in the difficult role of William, aware of himself and the disappointment of his life rather than disturbed, Edmunds’ script is sensitive in finding humour in the situations without making fun of the people, while understanding of his discontentment and loneliness is The White Queen‘s Freya Mavor as Ellie, her own cynicism enabling her to take a firm stand.
Considerably more reserved than the recently released Accident Man, where Harold and Maude frolicked in the mists and flowerbeds of the promised land of California, Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) plays as though the Heathers had graduated Grange Hill rather than Westerburg High, the debut feature of writer/director Tom Edmunds firmly framed by the rainy days and parking tickets of London, tasting the smoggy air until the very last breath.
Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is scheduled for release later in the year