Sundance 2021: ‘On the Count of Three’ Movie Review
On the Count of Three makes an unsettling impression just from its premise. It tells the story of two best friends, Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott), who decide to do a double suicide together. However, they have some unfinished business to attend to first. However, this dark premise is just the beginning of this unsettling yet enthralling film. On the Count of Three is a successful debut that deals with a perfect balance of heavy themes and good laughs.
The film is an unconventional story about friendship, to say the least. Carmichael, who also serves as the director, handles this dark and comedic film in such an effective way. The film handles the heavy themes with grace, and that is no small part thanks to the two leads of the film. This is a character drama through and through, and these two actors carry the entire movie. The chemistry between Carmichael and Abbott is truly amazing.
Val and Kevin, both dealing with intensely personal issues, seek each other out rather than deal with their problems. Unfortunately for them though, their friendship is exactly what inadvertently leads them to deal with their problems. Val, feeling unsatisfied with his life and that he hasn’t accomplished anything, has just decided he wants to end it all. Kevin, his best friend, had tried killing himself three days earlier. Val sees this as an opportunity to help him carry out the deed.
The premise, as dark as it may seem, is not without its hope. Val and Kevin seem to enjoy the life they are living and don’t even realize it. Val comes off as more subtle and nuanced, while Kevin is portrayed as more over the top. The two characters balance each other out perfectly. The way their stories progress together was a delight to watch and by the time their day came to an end, I didn’t want it to.
On the topic of depression and suicide, the film handles it with a certain level of grace. While it is disrespectful to make jokes about these situations, On the Count of Three doesn’t. Rather, it puts its two protagonists in comedic situations. Kevin wants to go dirt-biking. Val wants to confront his abusive father, and a hilarious fight scene ensues. The way these characters want to deal with their trauma is where the comedy comes from, but it never takes lightly what they intend on doing at the end of the day.
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Carmichael has an impressive team behind him, as the film looks and sounds impressive. On the Count of Three has a distinct visual flair that I think works well. The setting has a cold color palette, but the characters bring a certain warmth to it. The film has a lot of complicated thoughts that Carmichael translates excellently on screen. The film has humor but still has a weight to it that deals with a lot of real heartbreaking issues. The fact that On the Count of Three still manages to be as entertaining as it is despite all this is incredible.
The existential themes of hopelessness & not feeling in control are powerful and resonant, and the film handles it well. The juxtaposition of the darker themes with the crazy situations provides tension that works. I won’t say how it all ends up in this review, as I think it’s something one should experience themselves.
The film takes its characters and emotions very seriously despite the humor, and that is how the film succeeds. Even after the credits have rolled, character beats still linger in your mind. It gives an opportunity for conversation about the topics this film deals with. The script, its characters, and production design are all on point. This makes On the Count of Three a very impressive debut and I can’t wait to see what Carmichael does next. – Ernesto Valenzuela
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
‘On the Count of Three’ is pending a wide release date. For more Sundance 2021 coverage, keep an eye on our Twitter page and this site!
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