The Altruist The premise of The Altruist is one of the blackest I have heard in a long time: If you have thousands of murderers out there, and thousands of people who want to end it all, why not bring the two together?

And this is where Nick Andrews (Billy Franks) comes in. His company, which goes under the wonderfully euphemistic name of Terminal Assist, offers counselling, support and other services to the terminally ill. But behind it all, when there really are no alternatives apart from the extreme ones, Nick and his small band of trusted compatriots brings together people who want to die and the people that would like to kill them.

The number one rule of this organization and the rule that ensures that the police turn a blind eye to the less orthodox of Terminal Assist’s activities is that they don’t do jobs in their home town. And things have been running smoothly like this for the past three years.

Inevitably, when the film opens the number one rule has just been broken, incompetently, and with disastrous consequences. It now falls to Nick – under pressure from various sides – to clear up the mess.

There are several directions in which a film like The Altruist could have gone, black comedy being the most difficult of all to achieve. So the fact that film pulls this off so confidently and so effectively really is a testament not only to the writing talents of Mick McCleery but also to his direction and an edit that keeps the story moving forward smoothly and without any unnecessary distractions.

The characters are consistently well drawn and manage to remain both believable and interesting throughout. This is helped in no small part by the excellent quality of the acting, especially in the case of Billy Franks who manages to take a character as potentially deeply dislikeable as Nick Andrews and invest him with a level of sympathy – and empathy – that keeps you wanting to know how things are going to pan out.

The fact that The Altruist is not only very successful as a comedy, but also effectively explores the ethics – and dangers – of assisted suicide really is a testament to what can be achieved when someone with a lot of talent comes up with an excellent premise.

I can heartily recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good script, strong acting and a story that will keep you engrossed. This is a well made and intelligent film and I will be looking forward to seeing what Mick McCleery does next.