Wristcutters: A Love Story

Never thought I would read the following sentence, let alone write it. For a film about suicides, Wristcutters: A Love Story is strangely life-affirming. This film about slackers stuck in limbo between life and death is upbeat in an offbeat way.

In its opening sequence a depressive dude named Zia (Patrick Fugit, the almost famous star of Almost Famous) morosely cleans his apartment and proceeds to commit the act referenced by the title.

Patrick Fugit (left) and Shea Whigham in the drab desert landscape of the afterlife.

But instead of curling up under the oblivion blanket, Zia is stranded in the afterlife. Which is an awful lot like his former life only with a lousier job, longer hours and lower pay - all in a landscape drabber than the one he left voluntarily.

And where, from the looks of the juke joint near the pizza pit where he toils, he is surrounded by folk even more depressed than he is. One of them is Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian rocker desperately seeking action in this godforsaken patch of desert where Joshua trees and abandoned autos are scattered under a starless sky.

Destined to become the cult film of the year, this indie written and directed by Croatian filmmaker Goran Dukic (and adapted from Kneller's Happy Campers by Israeli writer Etgar Keret) suggests that in the right company, purgatory can be a kind of paradise. And, that affectless characters can be oddly affecting.

Dukic structures his film as a road-movie odyssey where Zia - who has ended it all because girlfriend Desiree ended their affair - learns that she has followed him to Limboland.

Driving across the desert looking for Desiree, Zia and Eugene encounter other eccentrics. There is the waifish Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), insistent that she was sent to this netherworld "by accident." And there is Kneller (musician Tom Waits, clownishly serene), who invites everyone to his camp, an ashram for suicides, where queerly miraculous phenomena occur, among them love.

Wristcutters is a small film of ambitions nicely scaled to the performances and story. Who knew that affectless characters could be so oddly affecting?

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5627 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl.