I see a lot of films. By way of being a film critic, I live and breathe movies, but I see a lot of films as simply a fan of film. I’ll never lose my fascination, respect and love of the craft, but one tends to become a bit jaded and desensitized to the structure of films. I don’t try to figure out a film’s twists and turns...
...I actively try to almost dumb myself down a bit when viewing a film so that I’m more surprised and excited as a viewer. Sometimes, though, there are films that catch me by complete surprise. They tear down my film critic ego and let me know I’m not as smart as I think I am. It’s a delightful rarity and if there was ever a film to defy my preconceptions of how a film will play out, writer/director Kirill Sokolov’s new film, Why Don’t You Just Die! would be at the top of that list right now.
Why Don’t You Just Die! is a film that has no protagonist or antagonist. These are just heavily flawed human beings. The story begins with Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) preparing to enter the apartment of his girlfriend’s parents. Matvey is dating the beautiful Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde). After a rather intimidating greeting from Olya’s father, Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) Matvey is interrogated and asks if he likes screwing his daughter. That’s just the beginning of the uncomfortable moments. The tension ratchets up at an increasing rate until a full-blown fight breaks out between the two men. We’re nine minutes into the film and we’re introduced to a viscerally violent interaction. It sets a clear tone but predicting the actual course of the narrative is simply out of the question. We soon learn that Matvey has been sent by Olya to kill her father, as she was raped by him when she was twelve. From the initial information we’re given, it would seem as if the story is quite simple but we soon learn of a connective side plot that shatters any notion that this is a simple story.
Straight out of the gate, I picked up on the beautifully framed cinematography. The color palette is oversaturated and gives the film a kind of visceral feeling of alertness. Yellows and reds are cranked up and the palette stays consistent throughout. Framing has been given special attention with each shot looking painstakingly set up to perfection. Dutch angles are used often, possibly hinting at a skewed perspective of not just the characters but the audience as well. The majority of the film takes place in the apartment and it never feels drab or boring to watch, because the filmmaking is so frenetic, and the pacing of information is expertly presented to us.
A film with style needs substance to balance it out and for the most part, Why Don’t You Just Die! delivers on that front too. However, it should be stated that this is not the kind of film that will leave you with questions of big ideas or generate deep conversation amongst your friends. When all is laid out for us at the end, character motivations are clear and not much is left to decipher. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either. It’s just not that kind of film. Instead, this is a fast paced, plot trotting film that is more concerned with painting characters as sketched themes rather than deep analysis of characters as real people. This is a strong suit for the film, because while it doesn’t leave you thinking about the characters and their personal complexities, it makes you ponder what they represent. I can’t give a full analysis of those themes without entering spoiler territory, but I will say greed is represented a lot. The film is highly allegorical and almost biblical in what it’s trying to convey. It’s dark stuff, but don’t be fooled, this is also very much a comedy. The violence is over-the-top, and it feels appropriate based on the film’s tone. The violence is goofy, wild and well shot. That being said, it did seem like Quentin Tarantino posturing at times and didn’t feel fully original.
The plot bounces around like a pinball, traversing to different points in time, locations and perspectives. Thankfully, none of this ever feels sloppy or disconnected. Kirill Sokolov has written a tight script. Nothing feels like it shouldn’t be there, and every scene is necessary. This a lean film, clocking in at just over 90 minutes. Somewhere around the halfway point, I knew I truly couldn’t predict how it would end. I think this is partially due to the fact that the film never tries to manipulate you into siding with anyone. Every character is equally flawed in their own right, so there are no narrative loyalties to abide by. This emphasizes the already established dark tone and makes the film’s destination completely unpredictable.
Why Don’t You Just Die! is a lot of fun. More than that though, it’s a film that’s deeper than it first appears. It’s not trying to show us realistic characters. It’s far more concerned with qualities of a character as themes and it works in broad strokes that don’t feel surface level. Instead, it all feels poignant and relevant. Outside of the film’s deeper sensibilities, it’s an entertainingly violent, high energy ride through a particularly bad situation. While the violence mimics the likes of Quentin Tarantino or even Guy Ritchie at times, it’s never so much that it feels like the film is devoid of an identity. Why Don’t You Just Die! is an excellent film and it’s one I will not soon forget. If you’re in quarantine and are tired of watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the 10th time (oh that’s me) or need to wash the Joe Exotic aftertaste off, give this film a watch.
Experience the bloodshed of Why Don't You Just Die! when the film releases from Arrow Video on Digital HD April 20th and Blu-ray April 21st!
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth