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Sundance 2021: On the Count of Three Review

Jerrod Carmichael’s directorial debut, On the Count of Three, is a bleak dark comedy about two best friends facing an existential crisis.

Carmichael and Christopher Abbott play Val and Kevin, two lifelong buddies who don’t want to keep living. When Val learns he’s receiving a promotion at his mulch factory job, he reacts by stepping into the men’s room and hanging himself in a bathroom stall. The suicide attempt doesn’t go as planned, and Val must try another tactic.

We find Kevin receiving treatment in a mental health facility. He’s been institutionalized for attempting suicide three days earlier. He’s not receptive to the therapy being offered, and another suicide attempt feels inevitable.

Val comes up with a solution to both their “problems.” He springs Kevin from the facility and reveals his masterplan: a suicide pact. The two besties will grab some guns and find an isolated spot where they’ll count to three and shoot each other in the head. Easy peasy. But before they go out in a blaze of obscurity, they decide to take care of some unfinished business. After all, if they’ll be dead by tomorrow, there’s nothing to lose.

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I used to think that depression was no laughing matter. But after living through it, I now see things differently. Going through depression has a way of changing your perspective. It’s like someone flicks a switch, and suddenly, the most essential things in your world no longer matter.

One day you’re pursuing divine pleasures like love, sex, friendship, and food. But the next day you wonder why they even mattered to you at all. And let me tell you, when you feel like an impartial observer to your own life, you start noticing a lot of contradictions. The jokes practically write themselves. Carmichael expertly mines humour from Val’s inconsistencies. The character says he wants to die, but he’s also cool with sticking around to complete his bucket list.

If you’re going to make a buddy comedy about suicide, you better step correct. And with this assured feature debut, Carmichael approaches the material with a degree of sensitivity, but he’s not pulling punches either. I wouldn’t want to see this subject represented any other way.

Sundance 2021 runs from January 28th until February 3rd. Click here for more Sundance coverage.

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