Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Written by Lone Scherfig
Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring Jamie Sives
Adrian Rawlins
Shirley Henderson
Lisa McKinlay
Mads Mikkelsen
Julia Davis
Music by Joachim Holbek
Cinematography Jørgen Johansson
Edited by Gerd Tjur
Zentropa Entertainments 6
Wilbur Ltd
Release dates
  • 8 November 2002 (2002-11-08)
Country Denmark
United Kingdom
Language English

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself is a Danish-Scottish film from 2002. A man named Harbour and his suicidal brother (Wilbur) inherit their father's second-hand bookshop in their native Glasgow. Their lives become entangled with a woman called Alice and her daughter Mary after the two visit the shop. Idealistic young Mary captures Wilbur's heart, and may be able to help save his life or help him find peace.


When Wilbur leaves the hospital after having tried once more to kill himself, the staff ask his brother Harbour to let Wilbur move in with him.

The brothers thus share their childhood flat, which is next door to the bookshop their father left them.

Uninterested in the family business, Wilbur works in a nursery. Harbour takes care of the shop and meets Alice, a mother who sells him the books she finds when working as a cleaner at the hospital.

When she is sacked for always being late at work, she goes to see Harbour to explain why she won't be coming to the bookshop again as she has no books to sell. Following his brother's advice on "grabbing" women, Harbour asks Alice to marry him. The wedding meal is held at an Asian restaurant and allows Wilbur to get acquainted with Sophie, Alice's ex-colleague from the hospital. The two start flirting, but Wilbur pushes Sophie away after she licks his ear. After the meal, Wilbur goes back home and slits his wrists in the bath.

Harbour finds his brother just in time and Alice saves Wilbur by using towels to stop the bleeding. While discussing Wilbur with Alice, Harbour tells her his brother feels responsible for their mother's death.

As he is about to leave the hospital, Wilbur gets a nurse named Moira, infatuated with him, to lick his ear. Instead of reciprocating the favour, he wipes his ear and leaves the room. At the same time, a few doors along, Harbour is told by a doctor that he needs to stay in the hospital for some tests. Harbour refuses because he wants to be at home with his new family.

Wilbur, Harbour, Alice and Mary live together next to the bookshop, allowing them all to get close to one another.

Before Mary's birthday party, Alice asks Harbour buy some whipped cream at the supermarket, where he has a fit.

He wakes up at the hospital, where Dr Horst, a psychologist he has met many times through Wilbur, tries to convince him to get treatment for pancreatic cancer. The two men share a bottle of whisky, Dr Horst believing that such is the condition of Harbour's liver thar a little alcohol will be insignificant. Wilbur goes back to the bookshop to bring Alice the whipped cream for Mary's party. When a little girl asks him to stand on his head, he throws up on her dress embroidered with gold. Harbour is put to bed; as Wilbur and Alice tidy up after the party, they kiss briefly until she says she cannot continue.

The next day, Wilbur tries to jump off a building, only to realise he doesn't want to. He goes homes to apologise to Alice for kissing her, but they do again.

Dr Horst tells Harbour he must explain his very serious situation to his family, but he doesn't know how to.

To fight their mutual attraction he and Alice, Wilbur decides to make nurse Moira his girlfriend. One evening, as they are all out for a meal, Moira tells the family they should change their eating habits to help Harbour's during his chemotherapy.

Furious at Harbour for wasting time instead of getting treatment, Alice takes him to hospital and spends the night there with him despite Harbour being scared that Wilbur might try to kill himself. The latter, having stayed at home to take care of Mary, decides not to commit suicide when he realises the little girl needs him. Wilbur resigns from his job to replace his brother at the bookshop. Harbour's condition does not improve, so his doctor allows him to spend his last Christmas at the bookshop.

After dinner, as Harbour tucks Mary into bed, she asks him if he is going to spend the night in Wilbur's room, implying that he will be in Alice's. As he is about to take a taxi back to the hospital, Harbour asks his brother to take care of Alice and Mary. In his hospital room, Harbour takes all his pills and trims his fingernails before lying in bed fully clothed.



The film has been well received by audiences. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 79 reviews, gives the film an 86% approval, the average rating being 7.1/10.

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