Dir: David Lee Miller. US. 2009. 105mins.


My Suicide, described as a ‘self-inflicted comedy’, is a parody of a documentary in which a teenager’s project to dramatise his own suicide makes him a popular guy at hisCaliforniahigh school. The film comes across as a philanthropic project as opposed to a commercial enterprise, with the goal of entertaining a young audience into understanding and fighting teenage suicide.

Multi-layered, often with collages of live-action and animation which mock and preach simultaneously, My Suicide uses teen-friendly imagery to reach its target audience. Any US distributor could tap into charity support, but its low-budget virtuosity could make it a curiosity beyond self-help circles. Since teen suicide is not limited to the US, there could be foreign interest, although probably from television.

The manic journey unto death is told through the eyes and the camera of Archibald Holden Buster Williams (Sunday), who struggles with prototypical teen problems - nerdiness, sexual awakening, alienation from his parents, and lust for the beautifully perfect Sierra Silver (Nevin). (Sceptics might suggest that we should all have such problems of the over-privileged.)

Once he decides to film his killing, the rest of the school joins in, filming and cheering him on.

Director David Lee Miller gets at a crucial teenage paradox - an acute focus on self-destruction while stimuli (moving images and sound) are flying in from every direction. Watching the film (and listening to its constant music track of soul-searching songs) is like experiencing hormonal overload.

Gabriel Sunday is well-cast as the awkward teenager who has everything except self-esteem, a happy family life and a girlfriend. Paradoxically, his quest (apart from dying gloriously and memorably) is to woo Sierra reminding us that suicide is about confusion as well as depression.

Rapid-fire editing by Gabriel Sunday and Jordan J Miller gives us the barrage of images facing (and created by) teenagers, in which suicide becomes one of a range of ‘must-do’ things. The title’s parody of the ever-present ‘My Documents’ or ‘My AOL’ on teenagers’ computers is no accident.

Even though the film’s image-making aims for the cutting edge, much of its script elements come from screen formulas dating back to the 1950s which attempt to probe youth problems - uncomprehending parents, weak kids who fall for the glamour of killing oneself, dark family secrets and a stock character like Vargas (Carradine), an aging indie film-maker/sage who offers advice that, predictably, Archie and Sierra and other kids at risk aren’t ready to take.

My Suicide is best viewed as a noble experiment, a film with a serious mission (despite its constant masturbation jokes) that aims at an audience and a population at risk that have not been reached in conventional ways. Not as darkly entertaining as Heathers (1988), the death-obsessed suburban comedy which defined its generation, and not as earnest as It’s A Wonderful Life, a classic with a suicide attempt at its centre, it will be judged by its effect on teenage behaviour, not by its bottom line.

Production companies
Generate/Archie Films
Interscope Films
Red Rover Films
Luminaria Films

International sales
Ken Hertz/Goldring, Hertz & Lichenstein, LLP
(1) 310 248 3107

David Lee Miller
Larry Janss
Todd Traina
Eric J Adams

David Lee Miller
Eric J Adams
Gabriel Sunday
Jordan J Miller

Lisa Wiegand
Angie Hill

Production design
Suzanne Rattigan

Gabriel Sunday
Jordan J Miller

Tim Kasher

Main cast
Gabriel Sunday
Brooke Nevin
Mariel Hemingway
David Carradine
Joe Mantegna
Nora Dunn