Wristcutters: A Love Story

Wristcutters: A Love Story

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Goran Dukić
Produced by Chris Coen
Tatiana Kelly
Mikal P.Lazarev
Adam Sherman
Screenplay by Goran Dukić
Story by Etgar Keret
Starring Patrick Fugit
Shannyn Sossamon
Shea Whigham
Leslie Bibb
Tom Waits
Music by Bobby Johnston
Gogol Bordello
Cinematography Vanja Cernjul
Edited by Jonathan Alberts
No Matter Pictures
Crispy Films
Halcyon Pictures
Distributed by Autonomous Films
Release dates
  • January 24, 2006 (2006-01-24) (Sundance)
  • October 19, 2007 (2007-10-19) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million[1]
Box office $454,026

Wristcutters: A Love Story is a 2006 American black comedy romance road movie written and directed by Goran Dukić, starring Patrick Fugit, Shea Whigham, and Shannyn Sossamon. Its premise is set in a strange afterlife way-station that has been reserved for people who have committed suicide.

It is based on Etgar Keret's short story "Kneller's Happy Campers". A graphic novel version was titled Pizzeria Kamikaze.

The film was originally intended to be shot on super-16 color infrared film, which was produced specially by Kodak. The color-shifts inherent in using this kind of film were thought to enhance the parallel world feel to the action.[2] In the end, it proved to be too time-consuming and the film was shot using normal filmstock manipulated in post-processing.[3]

The film was produced on an estimated budget of $1 million.[1] Premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it was distributed in limited release on October 19, 2007, before being expanded into wide release on November 2, 2007. It was released on DVD on March 25, 2008, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.[4] The film received positive reviews and has garnered a cult following.[5]


After Zia commits suicide, he finds himself in an afterlife limbo much the same as life, just slightly worse. Here the color is dim, there are no stars, and no one can smile. This strange realm is populated by people who have committed suicide, such as Eugene, a Russian musician who lives with his mother, father, and brother – all suicide victims.

Together they waste most of their afterlives in bars, until Zia learns from a friend, Brian, that his ex-girlfriend, Desiree, has also committed suicide. He and Eugene take to the road to find her, in Eugene's rundown car. Early on, it is revealed that Eugene's car has two idiosyncrasies: a sort of black hole underneath the passenger seat where items that are dropped disappear forever and broken headlights that cannot be fixed by even the most adept of mechanics. On their trip, they pick up hitchhiker Mikal, who insists there has been a mistake, and is seeking the "people in charge" (a.k.a. the PIC) in order to be sent back.

After a few adventures across the country, as the trio journey along a desolate highway, Mikal pushes a button, miraculously activating the broken headlights on Eugene's car. Shortly thereafter, they come upon a man lying in the middle of the dark highway, forcing them to veer off the road in order to avoid hitting him and wrecking the car in the process.

They discover the man, Kneller (Tom Waits), an eccentric commune leader, had fallen asleep while looking for his dog. Kneller invites them back to his camp, where they quickly discover that minor "miracles" occur, as long as the campers remain apathetic about the result. The group stays with the camp longer than intended, and Zia begins to obsess over the miracles and his inability to perform them. When contrasting this to Mikal's obsession with the people in charge, she reveals that her death was an accidental overdose. Eugene meets a young woman, Nanuk, whom he romances. Just as Mikal and Zia discuss their plans to leave Kneller's camp, another camper, Yan, emerges from the woods with news that Kneller's dog has been abducted by a cult leader called "Messiah King". Kneller, Zia, Mikal, and Yan set off in search of King and Kneller's dog.

The group soon find themselves lost and decide to bed down for the night. Unable to sleep, Mikal and Zia discover a nearby ocean shore, where they kiss and spend the night together. In the morning, Kneller discovers them lying among a mass of (presumably used) condoms and needles. The group eventually reach King's camp, where they discover that King (Will Arnett) is readying himself for a "real" miracle – to separate his soul from his body. As Kneller confronts King, Zia discovers that his Desiree is a devout cult follower, having committed suicide for the purpose of following King into the afterlife.

As King is about to perform public, ritual suicide, Kneller reveals himself to be an undercover agent for the people in charge. King and Desiree are taken away, while Mikal leaves with them, promising Zia that she'll return. As Zia waits, Eugene and Nanuk arrive, explaining that Mikal has been returned to life and Kneller's camp has been shut down. They depart together on a train, giving Eugene's car to Zia. After finally performing a miracle - creating a star in the sky next to one that Mikal had created earlier - Zia enters the black hole under the car seat.

The film cuts to a large warehouse filled with halls of boxes; Kneller is seen picking up Zia's file from a box, placing it into his inside breast pocket, and commenting on how fortunate it is to know people in high places. The film cuts back to Zia, who wakes up in a hospital bed. He turns his head, noting his parents outside a door talking to doctors. When he looks at the person in the bed next to his, he sees Mikal. Both look at each other and smile.



Gogol Bordello's music forms the backbone of the soundtrack for the film; the character Eugene is partly based on the band's lead singer, Eugene Hütz. Tom Waits, who plays Kneller in the film, also appears on the soundtrack with the song "Dead and Lovely" (from his 2004 album Real Gone) in the opening credits. Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Christian Death's "Deathwish" can be heard in the background of the first bar scene of the film (both bands were fronted by singers who have committed suicide), and an arrangement of "Gloomy Sunday" can be heard at a later point, songs about or associated with suicide.


The film received a positive review in The New York Times, which named it a "Critics' Pick" and said in part that it "has an offbeat, absurdist charm that turns a potentially creepy concept into an odd, touching adventure."[6] As of March 2015, the film had a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[7]



  1. 1 2 "Wristcutters: A Love Story". The Numbers. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  2. Finney, Andy. "Invisible Light". atsf.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  3. Goran Dukić (Director) (2008). Making The Final Cut: The Wristcutters Journey (DVD (Special Features)). Lionsgate.
  4. "Amazon.com".
  5. Berriman, Ian. "FREAKSHOW Wristcutters: A Love Story". SFX Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  6. "Life’s a Little Bit Worse Now That They’re Dead," A. O. Scott, The New York Times, October 19, 2007
  7. Wristcutters: A Love Story at Rotten Tomatoes
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