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On The Count of Three Review: Bumbling death plans

Two lifelong friends, both suffering with severe depression decide today should be their last, on the count of three…

‘On The Count of Three ‘ is a 2022 black comedy/drama directed by and starring Jerrod Carmichael as Val. He decides he finally wants to end his life and chooses to do it alongside his best friend Kevin played by Christopher Abbott. Kevin is currently being held in a psychiatric ward for attempting suicide a few days earlier. Val breaks Kevin out of the facility and the two begin a ‘death day’ adventure. The idea is to settle their affairs and get retribution on those who wronged them without repercussions, as they’d be dead the following day. Needless to say, things don’t go to plan.

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Suicide is still one of the true taboo subjects in society, protecting and preserving life at all costs is built into the psyche of most religions, governments, and nations. But while we have many freedoms in the world including speech and the right to live, ultimate control of our lives is beyond us. We don’t have the right to end our existence as and when we see fit.

Most religions see it as a mortal sin and countries have laws to prevent the intentional ending of your life. This policy seems to ignore how much physical, emotional, or mental pain a person may be in. The intention is to keep you alive, regardless of how much you are suffering. This is where we find one of the films lead characters, Kevin.

Official Trailer here
Christopher Abbot as Kevin

Kevin has been suffering with mental health and depression issues for most of his life. He has received all the medical and psychological help professionals have to offer but to no avail. In some cases, rather than assist, some have caused him more harm through negative experiences. On the other end of the spectrum is Val who appears to be a regular guy, but a series of life events lead him down a very dark hopeless path, leading him to decide he no longer wishes to carry on with life.

These two lifelong friends make a suicide pact and decide today would be their last, but first they have a few matters to settle, including unresolved issues with parents, doctors, girlfriends and their old boss. This is where their ‘adventure’ starts as they begin to live their last day without any concerns of repercussions or consequences. For people who have felt trapped and marginalised for most of their lives, suicide has suddenly given them a sense of freedom and even a joy they have never truly felt.

For them, an escape from mental pain and suffering becomes possibly after the count of three (referring to the countdown to them both pulling the triggers of the guns they have aimed at each other).

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Suicide isn’t a topic easy to portray in a black comedy. There’s always the chance of it being seen as exploitative or depressing. Neither of these apply to this movie. With ‘On the Count of Three’, Director Jerrod Carmichael weaves a tale that manages to both be delicate while also not pull any punches. It deals with the taboo topic of suicide in a responsible and realistic manner. There is no glorification of their position, nor is there any attempt to make the characters overly sympathetic. They are ‘fully functional depressives’ who are able to carry out day to day responsibilities but live with an underlying sense of dread, doom, and despair.

Carrying out double duties as actor and director can be taxing but Jerrod Carmichael manages to balance his duties comfortably. The film is well paced, the cinematography is decent, the colour palette is grey but not dreary and manages to still feel engaging. There is an interesting supporting cast, including JB Smoove as Val’s abusive father, Tiffaney Haddish as his long-suffering girlfriend and Henry Winkler as Kevins childhood psychiatrist.

This film didn’t delve deeply into a wider discussion about suicide but does present an interesting question about the lengths we go to keep people alive, especially when we are unable to help or provide support for them while living. The movie is an interesting and engaging drama/black comedy that isn’t funny but does manage to find a few lighter comical moments as it races towards its inevitable conclusion.

‘On the Count of Three’ is available now on VOD

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