We Need To Talk About Alex

“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man”

Caution Ye Who Enter Here: Spoilers and Feelings Abound!

It’s coincidentally my favorite line of Mercutio’s: a hint of humor to a grave (ha, get it) situation. It’s light-hearted, yet you can tell something is truly off. So imagine how I felt when Alex tweeted it as his farewell to life.

About Alex_2Before I start this…er…article? I must say that I felt am immediate kinship with the lead character of “About Alex”. It’s…odd, wanting to kill yourself. At first I didn’t know the movie was gonna be about that. I saw Max Greenfield with a beard and was immediately in. But reading the synopsis, I realized there was going to be substance.

So the movie starts with a house, and a man, Alex (Jason Ritter), sorting his affairs. A bathtub is running in the background. It seems in movies slitting your writsts while in the tub is the Way To Go, it almost makes me curious how many people actually take that route, as morbid as that is. He gets in the tub, fully dressed, and sends out a tweet: “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

This is when his friends are alerted to his suicide attempt. You first meet Ben (Nate Parker) looking stressed at work, who deflates at the news. He then calls Josh (Max Greenfield), who then calls Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), who calls Isaac (Max Minghella) in a standard “these are your characters, nice to meet you” scene; later on you also meet Siri (Maggie Grace) Ben’s longtime girlfriend and Kate (Jane Levy) Isaac’s “plus one”. They all fall into the categories “the ways people react to your almost death”

Ben is the one with his own issues, he can’t focus solely on helping his friend; Josh is the no-nonsense “suicide is ridiculous” character that is almost cruel in how he tries to get Alex to just admit it was a dumb idea; Sarah is the doting mother hen, a one woman Suicide Watch; Isaac is the one who doesn’t know what to do so he brings a plus one to further separate himself; Kate is an outcast, an outsider looking in; And Siri is the only person that treats Alex like a person.

When the friends arrive at Alex’s place they take it upon themselves to tidy up his living space. But they never touch the bathroom. I think that’s my favorite thing about the movie. They never clean it, they openly avoid it, and it’s very much how people react when someone they know tries or mentions wanting to kill themselves. So when everything goes bad, Alex takes it upon himself to finally take care of it. The scene is poignant, it reads as if he realizes everything is in shambles and he’s simply trying to regain control of his life because he’s the only one that can do it. It’s probably something that will always scratch against the back of his head but he’s making the moves to ignore it. Hearing Kate help someone on the suicide hotline, I think that made him take a step in the right direction and try to ignore the thoughts telling him things are too hard and to go ahead and do it.

While the scene with Josh attempting to force Alex to open up about what he was thinking is a tough one to get through, his ultimate point: that they were ignoring Alex, is profound. Considering Josh is a bit of a prick, recognizing that he was part of a larger problem is ultimately quite big. Alex’s admittance that he realized he didn’t truly want to die is also pretty big. Basically, even with him taking the steps –including actually slitting his wrists– it is ultimately always scary to feel like you want to be dead.

The film does a good job of showing that depressed and/or suicidal people are not solely concerned about their own personal issues, contrary to popular belief. Alex is such a sweet character, he always asks after his friends, and he openly cares what’s going on in their lives. Even after everyone is doting on him and “trying” to be extra careful he pays attention to their issues and tries to be a helpful ear. I like to think that Alex and Kate are at the center of this movie. They’re both dreadfully kind characters surrounded by a bunch of tools and they’re just trying to deal, given the circumstances. Their exchanges together, while they seem charged with negativity, are actually pure. Her assessment of his fragile mental state is taken gracefully.

At it’s core, this movie is about a bunch of people, and the different ways they try to deal with their situations, i.e. Alex trying to kill himself. They sleep with the wrong people, they dodge their friends, they try to put too much into one person, they lie by ommission to their significant others. I feel the point is, nobody’s issues are “unimportant” even in the wake of a friend trying to kill himself. In a way it’s missing the point of a character reaching his “end” but it’s also true to form because everyone always misses the point.

You can watch About Alex on Netflix.

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