On the Count of Three review: a darkly comic feature about hopelessness and true friendship.

On the Count of Three is the mental health film you need to see.

Christopher Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael appear in On the Count of Three
(Image: © Christopher Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael appear in On the Count of Three by Jerrod Carmichael, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Marshall Adams.)

What to Watch Verdict

On the Count of Three explores mental health from a man's perspective and I have to say we don’t see that enough.


  • +

    🔫 Papa Roach needle drop.

  • +

    🔫 Tiffany Haddish shines despite limited use.


  • -

    🔫 We don't see a lot of character development in the leads.

On the Count of Three is part of our Sundance Film Festival 2021 coverage. This review has strong themes from the start.

"Mental health matters" is a phrase we often hear now. But the term is often said without any understanding of what it really means. Unfortunately, in the Black community, therapy can still be something people are ashamed of. The notion that something could possibly be wrong with our mental health, is one we rarely discuss, especially in public.

So, Jerrod Carmichael's directorial debut was immediately intriguing. The debut director confidently directs and stars in On the Count of Three. It is a darkly comic feature about hopelessness, true friendship and not always feeling in control.

Val (Jerrod Carmichael) has reached a place in his life where he feels like the only way out is to end things. When Val fails to complete his plan, he reaches out to his best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) for help. Kevin has also made a failed suicide attempt, so to Val, he seems like the perfect partner to join him in a double suicide plan. The two pick a date and agree to pull the trigger together after they attend to some unfinished business.

On the Count of Three, is slow to start but, about 30 minutes in, it picks up and takes you through a great exploration of what it's like to be Black, male and to struggle everyday seemingly with the whole world on your shoulders. While we never really get down to the bottom of why Val's life is so awful that his only escape is to commit suicide, we do get to feel his sense of hopelessness through his touching and realistic portrayal of a man who can't go on anymore.

The script, penned by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, is both clever and deeply compassionate in its depiction of two people on the verge of giving up. This unusual, almost existential, bromance, propelled by Carmichael’s and Abbott’s committed performances and genuine chemistry, is bound to stay with you. The irony of someone wanting to take his own life while attempting to convince his best friend that suicide isn't worth it also doesn't go unnoticed. It's a reminder that while we may have given up we can often still find the strength to continue to push our loved ones along.

Shaye Wyllie

Shaye Wyllie is Editor in Chief of Popcorn & Tequila — an incredibly opinionated, delightful, entertainment site dedicated to millennials of color who enjoy laughing, the occasional geeky debate, who don't take life too seriously and love watching movies and TV shows in their spare time.