A Practical Guide To A Spectacular Suicide

Tom Collins (Graeme McGeagh) wants to die, but he has as yet been unable to make it happen. After trying to drown himself in the sea, Collins is charged with breach of the peace, sentenced to community service and referred to a psychologist. While waiting to see Dr Watson (Patrick O’Brien), he meets a young woman named Eve (Annabel Logan), who offers to help him do the deed. Before they can plan a suitably spectacular suicide, however, Collins must help Mr. Neilsen (Ray Crofter) clear out his garage.

Perhaps it isn’t acknowledged often enough: making a movie is hard. It takes a lot of time, money and energy to put a story on the big screen, and even with all the resources in the world there is no guarantee that the results are going to have been worth the effort. Of course, there are films out there that have succeeded despite limited resources. Sadly, Graham Hughes’ film is unlikely to be remembered as one of them.

Never for a moment does A Practical Guide To A Spectacular Suicide capture the imagination, or invite the necessary suspension of disbelief. You wait to be swept up in the story, yearn to be able to forgive its flaws and overlook its oversights, but as for Collins when he’s washed back to shore there seems to be no escaping reality: it’s just not going to happen. From beginning to end, A Practical Guide To A Spectacular Suicide is shot like a home video and acted like a school play.

Ostensibly a comedy, the film’s attempts at humor are more likely to leave audiences cringing than laughing. (Graeme’s shrink is called Dr. Watson — a mere coincidence that’s misconceived and oversold as a running gag.) McGeagh’s performance, meanwhile, though by no means the worst on display, is often painfully contrived; and he lacks both the conviction and charisma necessary to make his character compelling. You don’t believe a single thing he says, whether it’s pitched as a moment of levity or an emotional breakthrough.

A Practical Guide To A Spectacular Suicide is impossible to engage with, relate to, or invest in. For some it seems it is also impossible to endure. There were at least twenty walk-outs in the screening I attended, and really it doesn’t matter how much work went into a film if nobody’s willing to watch it.