Clinical depression and suicide aren’t usually sources of laugh-out-loud humor. On the Count of Three spins the darkest of subject matters into a hilarious and poignant black comedy. The premise has two lifelong friends promising to shoot each other at the end of their final day. The quest to wrap up loose ends turns into an entirely unexpected journey of understanding. They face long simmering problems that have defined their personalities. On the Count of Three is a daring film that pushes boundaries. Comedian Jerrod Carmichael is sublime in his feature directorial debut.
On the Count of Three has a startling open. Val (Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott) face each other with guns pointed at their heads. They begin to count down. The film then flashes back to earlier that morning. Kevin is in a psychiatric facility after a failed suicide attempt. He tries to cajole the therapist into releasing him. She doesn’t buy his story. Kevin viciously snaps at her.
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Val works at a construction company that makes mulch. He smokes cigarettes while thinking about his girlfriend, Natasha (Tiffany Haddish). He hates himself, his job, and boorish co-workers. He’s stupefied when his boss happily informs him of a promotion. Val will soon be the mulch manager. He has had enough of a sad life and visits Kevin, his best friend, in the hospital and ingeniously breaks him out. Val has two guns. Kevin is surprised by Val’s plan; but he’s also ready to check out. Kevin has one thing to do before pulling the trigger. They decide to pay a visit to the psychiatrist (Henry Winkler) that ruined Kevin’s life as a boy.
Val and Kevin Find Comfort in Each Other
On the Count of Three does not mock or make light of suicide. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Val and Kevin have been bullied incessantly. They found comfort in each other. Kevin has struggled with depression since childhood. He warns Val that suicide can’t be a rash decision. He’s been “broken” for as long as he can remember. Val is tired of hurting. He sees no point in further distress. Val has no desire to wake up tomorrow.
Their efforts to confront their abusers takes comical twists. Val and Kevin bungle their way into deeper issues. Val hides a big secret from Kevin. It comes to light in a way that changes the calculus of both men. The pact’s resolve comes into question. Val realizes that the choice to end it all doesn’t stop responsibilities. The mess he leaves behind will have to be cleaned up by others. Kevin takes a different view; the world is better off without them.
On the Count of Three tackles mental anguish with searing honesty. Val and Kevin represent average people who are lost in hopelessness. They can’t see any light through the dark cloud of depression. The film shows that there are no easy answers. A singular cure cannot solve everything. The will to find resolve is the first step to combat sadness. Ask for help. Share your pain. Suicide is a point of no return. No one should fight depression alone.
Carmichael is a revelation here. He addresses suicide with a deft comedic touch. Carmichael continues his brilliance as a stand-up performer in front and behind the camera. On the Count of Three proves again that laughter is the best medicine.
Help is available 24 hours a day at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Please call (800) 273-8255 if you’re feeling hopeless and alone.
On the Count of Three is a production of Annapurna Pictures, Orion Pictures, Valparaiso Pictures, Werner Entertainment and Morningside Entertainment. It will be released theatrically on May 13th by United Artists Releasing.
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Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood’s greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.
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