WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF — *** — Jamie Sives, Adrian Rawlins, Shirley Henderson; rated R (profanity, brief sex, vulgarity, brief drugs, brief gore).

"Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself" is a lot less dour and a lot more watchable than the title makes it sound. Then again, it would pretty much have to be, wouldn't it?

Actually, for a film whose title focuses on suicide, "Wilbur" is almost bright and chirpy. Well, maybe that's not the right way to describe this comedy-drama, but it's a lot lighter than you'd expect.

Of course, there is a question as to how tasteful it is to make light of something like suicide. But the movie treats that material in much the same way as the 1972 cult favorite "Harold and Maude." In other words, suicide is the subject of some dramatic and comic moments here — some of which are very dark — but it never seems too inappropriate or too flippant.

As the title suggests, the film follows the troubled title character, Wilbur (Jamie Sives), a thirtysomething Scot who's tried several times to kill himself.

In fact, his older brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins) isn't quite sure what to do with him. He'd like to employ Wilbur in his used bookstore, which the two siblings inherited from their late father. And he'd like to be able to go a week without Wilbur having one of his "episodes." And, of course, Harbour would also like to be able to have a life of his own.

The solution to all of this might be Alice (Shirley Henderson), a single mother who's recently come into the lives of both men. Harbour is instantly taken with her, and Wilbur finds a kindred soul in Alice's young dauther, Mary (Lisa McKinlay), whose positive attitude works wonders on him.

Co-screenwriter/director Lone Scherfig ("Italian for Beginners") manages to throw in several plot twists and character turns to keep things from getting too predictable. And the tone isn't nearly as dire as you might expect.

It helps that the cast is appealing. You can almost believe that Sives and Rawlins are brothers, while the oft-used Henderson (seen most recently in "Intermission") is solid, as usual. And newcomer McKinlay manages to hold her own and also steals her share of scenes.

"Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself" is rated R for occasional use of strong sexual profanity, some brief sexual contact, use of some crude slang terms, brief drug contact (prescription medicine) and brief gore. Running time: 105 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com