In this drama with loads of humor, Jack Burns is a miserable overworked lawyer with a sardonic wit, who is estranged from his wife, son and other family and has no friends or hobbies. One day at his office, in the midst of the unmitigated hell which he considers his life to be, he learns that he might have an imminently terminal disease. He’ll find out for sure if he has it next Thursday when the blood test comes back.
Jack’s main quandary: Why is it that until now, he hated life so much that all he wanted to do was die, yet now that he really might die, all he wants to do is live? Desperate for guidance, he pays a visit to Dr. Swenson, an especially upbeat therapist who urges him to embrace life and mend the bonds with his loved ones. At the same time, however, Jack is paid an unexpected visit by a close acquaintance from his college days as a philosophy major – the especially downbeat nineteenth century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who reminds him that all of existence is just a seething caldron of hideous, evil pointlessness and the only hope of minimizing the torment is to cease all striving and withdraw from everything and everyone.
Over the days leading up to Thursday, Dr. Swenson and Arthur wrestle for Jack’s soul, while Jack begins to see his life and the people who inhabit it in a strange new light. He ultimately achieves a certain synthesis of the two perspectives and a tenuous peace of mind.