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This film is about a boy who suffers from the fantasy unique to our
age: the belief that one's entire life is a movie. The Truman Show is a
good example of this: the notion that one's entire life is so perfect,
so banal, repetitious and ordinary, that it must be scripted-- it
cannot possibly be real. So this boy, Archie, records as much of his
life as he possibly can on video, and edits it together in his room.
The problem is, no matter how much of his life he makes into a movie, it still feels meaningless. So he announces in his high school film class that he will make a movie in which he kills himself. That will be the plot and the grand finale.
His entire neighborhood starts gossiping about him, and his life changes enormously. This is when his real movie-making starts. Suicide is always lurking near him, and the entire movie is a play on various questions of suicide: when we kill ourselves, what are we doing? Is every death a 'suicide' because of the necessarily unsafe ways we live our lives? Is suicide an act of freedom and defiance, or of conformity and weakness-- or neither?
Some great cameos from unexpected actors add to the film a lot.
This is one of those rare films that covers the entire emotional spectrum, and does so effortlessly. It is as hilarious as it is tragic, as fragmented as it is thorough. If it receives the distribution it deserves, it will be a hit.
I attended the North American Premiere of "My Suicide" at the 2009 SXSW
Film Festival where it screened to a sold-out 1300-seat Paramount
Theatre. I'm always looking for the "sweet little American indie." You
can now add "My Suicide" to the list -- although "sweet" and "little"
may not apply. It's more of a "heartwrenching big American indie." When
his high school class is instructed to submit a class project, Archie
Williams (Gabriel Sunday) has the perfect video in mind -- he'll film
his own suicide. Classmates and adults alike reel in horror at the
prospect, but some aren't so disturbed by it. Count among them the
vivacious Sierra Silver (Brooke Nevin), every boy's wet dream, whose
fascination with Archie's idea is puzzling to the self-professed loner.
As friends, family, and an assorted flock of professionals come out of
the woodwork in well-intentioned attempts to dissuade him from this
act, he begins to wake up to the reality that he's not alone in his
"My Suicide" was directed by David Lee Miller from a story he co-wrote with his son Jordan. The screenplay was written by David along with Eric J. Adams and star Gabriel Sunday. The film was edited by Jordan and Gabriel.
Miller had his hands firmly at the wheel but was able to throw many conventions out the window because much of what we are seeing is through the eyes of a high school student -- Archie (Gabriel Sunday), not Miller. Although many young people are keenly aware of how to make amateur video look professional, there was a danger in production values being of too high quality. So, much like the mind of a teenager, the first act in particular is a cinematic assault on the senses, with frenetic cuts, chaotic sound, and dazzling visuals. Still, Miller's movie makes the most of its small budget and cuts no such corners.
"My Suicide" is actually quite amusing as events unfold. Once the viewer gets past the initial shock of Archie's plans it becomes apparent that life in a YouTube world can be a hallucinatory pleasure. Counterintuitively, living in Archie's suicidal mind is a high from which we never want to come down. But, like any mind-altering substance, we know it won't last. The film turns dark as expected but in completely unexpected ways.
This is clearly Gabriel Sunday's film. Now 23, he was only 19 when production began in early 2005. His performance as the tortured teen left many audience members shaking their heads in wonder. The ability to carry a film like this is quite rare for a young actor with such a small body of work to his credit, let alone the fact that he had such a large hand in writing, shooting, and editing the film. This was only his first feature -- he's done a bit of television, mostly after "My Suicide" was filmed. Many more are sure to follow.
Brooke Nevin is a delight as Archie's foil, occasional foe, and would-be friend. Her character is destined to either unravel Archie's plans or cement them. It is a tribute to Nevin's ability to keep her emotions close to the vest that viewers are constantly being challenged.
In addition to Sunday and Nevin, the all-star cast features star turns from David Carradine as the legendary poet Vargas and Joe Mantegna as the shrink who earns Archie's trust. Mariel Hemingway is delightful as Sierra's clueless, narcissistic mother. Some of the film's most heartwrenching, tear-inducing scenes owe their power to Nora Dunn's loving portrayal of Archie's mom and some of the classmates who enter Archie's life, in particular Zachary Ray Sherman (Corey) and Michael Welch (Earl). Supporting cast members all show great dedication to the project, including Vanessa Lengies, Tony Hale, and Kurtis Bedford.
The concept of a movie within a movie is certainly not new but the level to which the idea is executed here is simply breathtaking. Miller and his team have created a technological marvel that never allows the stunning visuals to overshadow the film's urgent message. This is one of those rare films that not only can be appreciated by just about anyone but should -- must be seen by anyone who has ever searched for love and acceptance. In short, everyone.
I can only agree with the other comments. MY SUICIDE is a true find, and will hopefully make its way into international cinemas. Despite the fine cast, including established thesps like Joe Mantegna, Mariel Hemingway and David Carradine, it is a true independent film with a small budget, but skillfully done, and spiced with such a sharp sense of humour, a lot of energy, heart and food for thought. It doesn't play dumb for the audience, but stays easily accessible throughout without ever becoming trivial. Main actor / co-writer / co-editor / producer Gabriel Sunday (here wrongfully credited with the role Holden, rather than Archie) shows so much talent that you can almost turn envious. There'll be more to see of him in the future for sure! The wicked editing and compositing, the multi-format footage, and the congenial animation add-ons never feel contrived, but spice the film with a young look that will hit the youthful viewers especially. You can watch MY SUICIDE just for entertainment (even after the laughable scenes get replaced by the more serious themes), you can watch it for pointers and understanding - your own troubles, your friends' or your kid's. But you should watch it nonetheless! Just hope you'll get the chance. Fingers crossed this film will get the publicity it deserves!
I just saw this movie earlier tonight at a screening, and I can honestly say that it was an excellent movie. I do hope that it gets a theatrical release. It was very different from any other movie that I have ever seen and I think that's what makes it so interesting and delightful. It is a little dark and has a lot of vulgar language, but that it was makes the movie so realistic and able to relate to. And then again, it is about suicide. Also, the movie has a great message and has a a compelling way to get through to the audience, and more importantly, the youth. Because the youth is what it is mainly targeting towards. Definitely go see it because not a lot of movies like this are out there.
Just saw "My Suicide" at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was hidden in the "Generation" section for children's and youth-related movies. It is hard to describe the story and visual experience of this movie in just a few lines, so to spare you an extensive review, I'll just say this: "My Suicide" is one of the most powerful, most inventive and most thought-provoking movies in years, constructed in a tour-de-force of virtuoso editing (finishing this movie after principal photography took three years) that will blow the mind of any real film lover on this planet. And it is the most insightful, intelligent movie I have ever seen on the topic of teenage suicide. "My Suicide" is surely not only the best film of the entire festival, but one of the best films of this year - if somebody is daring enough to pick it up and distribute it properly. I pray for all movie freaks out there that somebody does.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This quirky and visually surreal coming of age tale tackles heavy themes like suicide, adolescent angst, teenage rebellion and the hypnotic allure of technology and the way in which the media can influence today's youth. In an era when technology savvy teens are also wannabe auteurs, film obsessed teen Archie Williams announces that he will commit suicide on film for his media assignment. His announcement leads to a period of incarceration in the psychiatric hospital, and makes him the most talked about kid in school. His announcement also comes with plenty of baggage that he struggles to deal with in the lead up to the event. Although the film is dealing with grim subject matter, there is something life-affirming about it. Director David Lee Miller produced the film under the auspices of an organisation that tackles youth suicide prevention, and while it has an agenda to push it is never overtly hectoring or preachy in delivering its message. My Suicide is shot in faux documentary style using video and hand held camera. But there are also plenty of idiosyncratic stylistic touches, including clever animation sequences, cinematic references, frenetic editing and arresting visual gimmicks. Gabriel Sunday delivers a good performance as the lead role, a kind of 21st century Holden Caulfield, who documents his everyday journey through a challenging minefield of sex, drugs and adolescent angst. Prophetically, David Carradine appears in one of his last roles here, playing a film maker, poet and author who is Archie's main inspiration.
My love for disturbing movies is brought up again after watching this
fantastic film. Awesome graphics, raw emotion, and a realistic
portrayal of human suffering is demonstrated throughout.
The actor who claimed Archie's role was both charming and relatable with his honest personality. His crush, Sierra, is the typical gorgeous blonde, but we find that she has way more to herself than her killer looks. I really liked this because it's a reminder that we truly never know a person until...well...until we get to know them.
This movie had me laughing, crying, and gaping at the screen as the fantasy-like animation and true-to-life filming switched back and forth. (Usually not in an obnoxious way, but some people might not like it.) It also does display pornography and nudity (not excessively, but perhaps enough to make someone uncomfortable) along with lots of swearing, so it may not suit everyone.
Though it was a strange and risky movie, it is definitely an awesome film. 4/5
Why are "teen movies" synonymous with campy, cheesecake, potty humor
flicks that numb your brain into senselessness? Don't get me wrong, I
loved "Porky's" as much as any hormone-drenched youth. But here, it's a
real treat to see a "teen flick" with some real guts.
I hope my first paragraph didn't scare you off, because it would've scared me off if I'd been told that this film is about teen issues. Been there, done that, never wanna go back. My entire life was "The Breakfast Club" only I never got the girl :( But "Archie's Final Project" is done in such a creative, provocative way that you'll find yourself glued to the screen from the first 5 minutes.
Archie introduces the film by announcing he's going to kill himself by the end. This simple trick establishes a feeling of suspense that never lets up, even during the lighter, comedic moments. Note: do NOT miss the deleted scene on the DVD featuring the hilarious Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Spinal Tap, etc) as the new-age healer. Perhaps they cut it because it was TOO funny.
As the title suggests, "Archie's Final Project" is his project for a high school video class. With that premise it can get away with a lot of quirky, over-stylized, A.D.D. type effects as only a teenage amateur film student could do. But in it you'll find a degree of poetry, depth and authenticity that only a teenage amateur film student could do. Stylistically, it's daring enough to do things that most directors would be afraid to try. But it's not just empty style. The themes are very deep, and (largely thanks to David Carradine playing the magnetic & enigmatic cult poet) it injects some profound philosophy in the midst of the spectacle.
Like I said, it's very authentic. This is largely due to an excellent performance by Gabriel Sunday as the loner kid whom nobody really knows about. Basically the whole film is a string of his monologues, but they never get boring. A nice touch was the way he constantly slips into doing impressions of classic films, including but not limited to: The Deer Hunter, The Matrix, Cool Hand Luke, Apocalypse Now, and half a dozen others I didn't recognize.
In all, this film makes me think of how Catcher in the Rye would've been if set in modern times with HD cameras and multimedia editing software. It's literature on the big screen. Absolutely brilliant.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My Suicide, a film which I saw a special screening, contains a strong
point of view and a distinctive sense of humor that shouldn't be
ignored. It also introduces most of us to a new young actor, Gabriel
Sunday, who also is attached on the project as
co-writer/editor/producer. While it's David Lee Miller's first feature
film, and one would want to credit him with the editing style (not at
all unlike Natural Born Killers only with the assistance of Avid, or is
it Final Cut?), but it's more than likely Sunday's baby. And as it is,
it's loaded with the kind of self-deprecating, crazy humor that one
would expect from someone who is 16 or 17 and doesn't know what to do
with themselves despite being in comfortable middle-class existence
with access to technology up the wazoo. It's about human connectivity
through media, and or what a self-portrait for a teen means when
someone else enters the equation- or the whole school, for that matter.
Basically, Archie wants to kill himself, or rather will only for the project in class which is to document something about one's life. For all of it calling back to Oliver Stone, it's still a refreshing way to get inside of this person's particular mind-set: it's like we're watching most times the actual movie Archie is meant to be presenting his audience, and then here and there the cracks of the third wall being broken and an actual movie going on about this making-of the movie. Some may find the opening ten minutes or so, which has less to do with direct plot than with setting up the tone and sense of humor, as aggressive, but it struck me as being just about right. That, and the very odd, nearly mystical and, sadly ironic, images of David Carradine as the "Death Poet" Vargas talking on camera about this and that like an old sage. He comes on later in the film- actually the more he's seen the less effective he really is- but it's mostly Archie's story, him and Sierra.
Oh yeah, that's another thing too- it's a dark (super duper dark, more like tragic-dark) comedy about two teens with a similar suicidal edge who get into a relationship, one the awkward outsider with a penchant for ripping apart those around him (i.e. the c*** scene with the doctor), the other, Sierra, a super-hot "perfect" teen who dates and lot and also cuts herself with a razor. It's about this subject of suicide, and it's also about these characters coming to terms with it, actually being *alive* as they're plotting their own ends, and what that means in turn when it suddenly projects onto other students around them. It's a good message and often funny, even as its rapid-machine-gun-fire editing technique and warped visual cues with good old green screen go into overload.
The big problem, for me, is a level of predictability that settles in. It doesn't go completely into after-school TV special territory, but it gets close; at least close enough for it to go into just being another teen drama, so to speak, with little spikes of humor in the last third (some, arguably, not totally appropriate, considering that it doesn't stick to its guns as a super-dark comedy till the end). But it's a problem that many in its desired demographic- whack-a-mole teens and their attentive parents- will be entertained and informed by. And, as well as announcing a new young star, it also features some unlikely movie references I enjoyed, such as from Goodfellas the "WHY DID YOU DO THAT!" screaming match between Henry and Karen.
I saw a screening of this film about a year ago, when it was still being fine-cut, but it still contained an emotional intensity which stayed with me for days after. Stylistically, the film is constantly engaging. It switches between documentary-style footage shot by the main character and a combination of animation and roto-scoping techniques that give the film a unique look and feel. The true achievement of this film is that it deals with teenage depression, apathy, escapism, and violence in a way that engages both teens and adults. The film avoids devolving into melodrama, which considering the subject material, is a feat unto itself. Without giving too much away, this film shatters preconceptions about issues (especially the cliché of the suburban American teen who is disconnected from reality) which have been depicted in many films, but have not been treated in a mature fashion.
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