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Dawn Cottrell (Peterson) seems like a typical sixteen-year-old girl, but she has a very dangerous secret. Unable to express her true feelings, whenever Dawn is upset she grabs a knife and cuts herself.
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Archie Williams is a 17-year old media geek who has suddenly found himself the most talked-about kid in school. He has announced that he's going to kill himself- on camera- for a class project. His classmates, parents, Sierra- the most beautiful girl in school, and a "Shady Bunch" of shrinks, doctors, pill-pushers, and counselors descend on Archie. Some are hoping to save him, some want to imitate him, others try to push him over the brink. Archie films every moment of his high school experience, hiding nothing from his audience: realities of life, death, violence, sex, drugs, and the intense media overload and hypocrisy that bombard all teenagers. Written by
Steven Jay Rubin, Executive Producer
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 pain.
"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.
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