Truly dark British comedies are far and few between. The masses of the 21st century seem to want something mind-numbing and full of juvenile jokes. God forbid they have to exercise their minds whilst chewing on sweets and popcorn. After the plethora of summer superhero blockbusters and hideous Halloween flicks comes something rather brilliant – Dead in a Week (or your money back) is exactly the type of black comedy dreary autumn London needs.
This is a laugh-out-loud hour and a half that truly tickles the soul. From slapstick falls to fairly serious ones, this feature is deliciously daring at every turn. Struggling writer William desperately wants to end his suffering attempting to kill himself 7 times(10 if you count the cries for help). Spotting this man’s desire to die whilst clinging to a bridge, aging assassin Leslie sees the opportunity for a job and that job just might save his own skin. After failing yet again, William seeks professional help, outsourcing his own suicide with the hope of a quick and painless death within the week of course, or his money back.
Albeit, when a pretty lass from a publishing house calls for a meeting and the prospect of being a published writer reveals itself, the boy changes his mind just as Leslie gears up for the hunt. Transforming into a hilarious cat and mouse affair, Leslie needs to get his kill streak up fearful of being fired and retiring on a around the world cruise with his wife and well, William now wants to live. With the help of sarcastic Ellie (Mavor), William finds not only safe ground (for the moment) but taps into a deep and meaningful part of human existence – even if it is sugar coated in colloquialism’s only a budding writer in pain would spout.
Main man Aneurin Barnard embodies Frodo like qualities inducing the big eyes, curly floppy hair and an endearing quality that has just the right amount of pathetic struggling artist and sheer lost puppy-ness as William. A healthy dose of Eccelston as Harvey, the gangster boss of the Guild of Assassin’s (they have a brochure and everything), is quite the treat to watch offering up a fair percentage of sniggers. Notwithstanding Wilkinson who without doubt is an assassin with a sense of humor, a believable death-stare (with a cheeky smile) and one hell of an old-school ringtone. Wife Penny (Marion Bailey) and her obsession with needle work and beating the upper middle with her embroidery skills is thoroughly entertaining – appearing as a seemingly standard housewife but one who fully supports her husband’s killer (quite literally) career with amusing comments and packing extra weapons with the man’s packed lunch. The characters here are truly a breath of fresh air; dripping with realism and sentimentality proving intelligent writing isn’t lost in the industry after all.
At the same time as giving us the giggles, this expertly deals with mental health themes allowing the severity of self-harm and depression to seep through whilst providing us with a profound life message with warmness. Evoking qualities of Death at a Funeral (not the American one, obviously), Fargo and the not so well known Chain of Fools;the wit is delightfully dark. The humor is subtle, yet transcends into genuinely funny moments and there is simply no need to spell it out here. Despite the 90 minute running time, the narrative unfolds at a leisurely pace that some viewers may find too sluggish. Yet, with such a tangible portrayal of sensitivity the speed seems just right.
With an impressive directorial debut writer, director Tom Edmunds creates a perfect equilibrium of guttural chortles and shock value providing us with a good old-fashioned British comedy. Dead in a Week (or your money back) is drenched in hilarity and darkly genius.
Dead in a Week hits selected theatres Friday 16th November, 2018