When a film’s only flaw is its title, it’s safe to say that audiences are in the clear. Such is the case for Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back), an edgy British comedy starring two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, Michael Clayton) and Aneurin Barnard (Bigger).
Barnard plays William, a hopeless writer who wants to end it all. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for William, he can’t kill himself. Believe me, he tries – many times – but, his attempts are complete duds or go sour when in motion. Channeling his heartache into his writing isn’t working either. His latest suicide attempt is interrupted by an older man (Wilkinson). This onlooker, Leslie, turns out to be a professional hired gun who is willing to give William a “helping hand” with his next attempt.
Wilkinson brings a wonderful sincerity to his role, which benefits the film’s warped sense of humour and Leslie’s side-story of coming to terms with his age and retirement. His intentions and his kindly personality also add contrast to the more grisly details of his job. Barnard is a good partner for Wilkinson to play off of. William is a depraved character, and Barnard does a good job illustrating him as a sunken soul. But, the performance is also endearing and plays within the right brand of quirkiness when William keeps in contact with his personal assassin.
The delivery of the visual gags and the screenplay’s dry wit are bang-on. However, I can’t get over that title. In Leslie’s ironclad contract, it states that his service has no refund policy, but that the victim can receive their money back if they’re still alive by the end of the week. Instead of bringing attention to this loophole, William and his new friend Ellie (Freya Mavor) try to find ways to opt out of the hit by directly approaching Leslie. This certainly provides writer/director Tom Edmunds and his cast to toy around with amusing back-and-forth banter, but straight-up ignoring this escape option is a weird decision.
Nonetheless, Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is bloody hilarious. If you’re a fan of Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World, this dark comedy is for you.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie