Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) (2018) **

November 12th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Writer/Dir.Tom Edmunds. UK. 2018. 90 mins

A watchable British cast explore the meaning of life in Noirish comedy that never quite catches fire despite some powerful elements. Dead in a Week is the feature debut of writer/director Tom Edmunds whose his message certainly has evergreen appeal: ‘love makes the world go round in life’s comedy of errors, and we leave stage when we’re least expecting it.’

Aneurin Barnard stars as William, an aspiring writer and lifeguard who has tried nine times to kill himself. The latest attempt – from a London Bridge – is swiftly averted by Tom Wilkinson’s passing hitman Leslie who describes himself as a one-man euthanasia clinic – a clever idea and one that could easily take off in today’s grim world. For the princely sum of £2,000 he offers to kill the soulful writer within a week, paid upfront, “for obvious reasons”. Leslie’s offer has a ring of sincerity to it, and once the two have come to an arrangement, William’s creative juices go into overdrive, galvanised into penning a paper back-style crime thriller chronicling the whole affair.

Leslie’s Raymond Chandleresque pretensions are the only thing saving him from his dreaded retirement in suburbia with a wife whose only raison d’être is needlepoint (She: “I’ve come out of my comfort zone to do a cushion cover, He: “isn’t that more comforting?”). The problem is, Leslie face the sack unless he keeps up his quota of kills for The British Guild Of Assassins. In a zeitgeisty subplot the Eastern Europeans are encroaching on his market, with Ivan (Velibor Topic) recently winning, ‘Hit Man Of The Year’. Leslie is a worried man.

Meanwhile, love comes to William in the shape of his pulchritudinous publisher Ellie (a persuasive Freya Mavor) and suddenly ‘living’ seems a better option than dying. But can he get out of his contract contract with Leslie, who is hell bent on killing him, for his own reasons.

Despite his thoughtful and often hilarious premise, Edmunds never quite manages the film’s changes of tone and mix of styles. A sweary interlude with Leslie’s bolshy boss at the Guild (Christopher Eccleston) feels completely out of place with Leslie and Penelope’s twee domestic idyll that’s more Seventies TV soap opera than this modern day angry outburst. And William’s Byronesque existentialism is convincing but rather too profound for the comedy treatment it’s given. Tom Wilkinson’s deadpan performance of exasperation and tetchiness is a convincing portrait of middle- aged angst and one of the drama’s strongest assets.

On the downside Dead In A Week makes flippant side-swipes at dementia, ageing and even motor neurone disease (a tasteless Michael J Fox joke) and the pace starts to slacken when the story becomes more convoluted. These flaws are largely down to inexperience. Edmunds has some good ideas, he should trust his instincts and avoid over-complicating his plot lines. Dead In A Week’s flippant tone is often too derogatory for themes expressed by its thoughtful characters in a drama that rather toys with very real trauma. MT


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