The problem with business is that you have to rely on other people. If nobody wants to buy your stock, you don’t make any money. The problem with running a funeral home is that your business revolves around people dying. In a small town where everyone knows one another and there are no elderly people thanks to the elderly home being moved closer to the competition’s funeral home, you’re going to be in trouble.
That’s the problem that faces Oliver (Jay Baruchel). After his father dies and leaves him the failing business, it’s up to the nerdy son to try to get it back together. There are only two other employees working here: A coroner named Roberta (Rose Byrne), and an everyman named Henry (Graham Greene). Apart from the father’s funeral, there hasn’t been a service in almost a year. In a month’s time, there’s a good chance the home will be closed for business.
All seems bad for the gang. Oliver’s thinking of selling the home to his competitor so as to scrape a bit of money from it. After having lunch and dinner with Roberta, he decides to drive home a bit drunk, eventually hitting a man who just happened to be crossing the road in front of the vehicle. An idea hits the duo: Let’s snap his neck, make it look like he tripped while walking, and then we’ll have the funeral for him. Their plan works, and they make a bit of money. But another character begins to suspect that the death wasn’t just a simple trip, so they kill him. Accidentally, of course; these people aren’t murderers.
We continue this way for most of the time that Just Buried runs. It does get tiresome, although watching the elaborate web of lies and cover-up unfold is quite intriguing. You can feel the tension building. Just when you think the characters have gotten away with it, they’ll realize they left another piece of evidence behind, and another person on their trail. But, hey, they finally have some clientele! Maybe the funeral home won’t have to be sold!
Or maybe they’ll go to jail because they’ll get caught. I won’t spoil how the film ends, but with two cops so close to Roberta’s life (her “boyfriend” is the constable to her father’s police chief), you know they’re going to get involved at some point. This is a film that’s going to involve all of its named characters because (1) that’s what good films do and (2) if you’re a Canadian indie filmmaker and you’re paying someone to have a major role, they’re going to be important.
I hope I haven’t made Just Buried sound like a grim film, because it’s the opposite. Sure, it has death, corpses, and even an explosion, but the tone of the film is very whimsical. Even in some of the more thrilling scenes, there is a lot of dark comedy mixed in to keep the mood light. I mean, just look at the title: “Just Buried” seems to me to be a play on the term “Just Married.” Can you not get that it’s a comedy from that? Maybe not. Regardless, within the first five minutes that you begin watching this film, you’ll realize it’s not taking itself incredibly seriously.
So, yes, this is your quirky indie comedy that just so happens to be about murdering people. It’s fun, even if it’s not terribly unique or surprising (although one twist later on will probably surprise), and it’s filled with enough humor to make it worth watching. I liked its sense of humor, I enjoyed the characters, and I had fun even if I can see how some would find it disturbing or depraved. They are killing people just to keep a business going.
You know, when you put it that way, it dons on me that Just Buried could be trying to take a shot at corporate business. How they put profit before everything else? How the net gain is more important than worker morale or customer satisfaction? Could it be that Just Buried is actually a much smarter film than it rightly should be? Well, maybe, but it doesn’t come across as preachy. Read that much into it if you want to, but it’s certainly not going to pound that message into your head. That’s nice, as these things can sometimes be annoying, but if that depth is really there (and I’m not certain it is), it means that there’s more to absorb not only on the first viewing, but on subsequent ones.
A film like this needs two things: A good cast and a solid script. The first is taken care of with Jay Baruchel and Rose Byrne. The former plays another nerdy, socially awkward role, while the latter is sweet, mysterious … and also possibly insane. Both are endearing for most of their time on-screen. But the script is all over the place. Often funny, but sometimes it isn’t at all. It also repeats itself one too many times, and doesn’t really expand upon what is quite the final twist.
Still, for most of the time it was playing, I either had a smile on my face or I was laughing. I was rarely bored because I liked these characters, and the film is funny enough to keep you laughing — just as long as your sense of humor is somewhat depraved. It also possibly contains more to think about than you would initially think, making rewatches more enjoyable. I had a good time with Just Buried, and if you like quirky indie comedies, you’ll probably enjoy it as well.