On the Count of Three is a heartfelt movie about two friends who have entered into a suicide pact. Making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the film explores depression, friendship, and finding meaning in life. Humor and drama are mixed into a topical story. As with anything that deals with heavy topics, the question becomes is it too much?
The directorial debut of Jerrod Carmichael (who also stars as Val) is about a man who has decided to kill himself. Making the decision even easier is the fact that his childhood friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) has just tried to commit suicide. Kevin is initially reluctant (in a powerful and tone changing moment) before the two decide they will spend one last day together.
On the Count of three never romanticizes suicide. (A running joke is Kevin’s insistence to listen to the awful “Last Resort” by Papa Roach). It is treated as a serious decision that both men have made. There are no jokes about what they will do next no silly ideas as to how they will do the act. An air of finality hangs over the entire movie.
The strongest aspect of the movie is how suicide is never used as plot device for comedy. The premise and the pair’s plans seem rife for dark humor. On the Count of Three never goes in that direction. Instead, it is a character study about two men and the nature of depression and suicide. This does not mean that the film is not funny. On the contrary, On the Count of Three is filled with hilarious moments. From Kevin’s stance on guns to a comment about having time to kill, the script has perfectly placed comedy.
Carmichael and Abbott are spectacular in the lead roles. For starters, they have great chemistry. The lifelong friendship comes across in their interactions. When the two try to help each other out of tough situations, it comes from a genuine place. This makes On the Count of Three relatable despite its extreme premise. Both actors also bring great emotion to the role. During the entire film, the audience tries to figure things out along with Val. Meanwhile, Kevin’s pained looks and erratic reactions give insight into what he is going through. The movie works on a deeper level due to Carmichael and Abbot.
On the Count of Three gets off to a slow start, but once Val and Kevin come together, it is an engrossing watch. Less of a dark comedy and more of drama that knows when to laugh, the film tackles serious issues without ever downplaying them. Still, it manages to be heartwarming and funny.
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