Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Irreplaceable You: Movie Review

Dying girl drama with not enough comedy.
Irreplaceable You stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Abbie, a young woman diagnosed with terminal cancer. A drama (with touches of comedy) about her short journey towards death; it’s about her acceptance or unacceptance of her fate, her need to plan for life without her, and how she wants others to respond to her tragedy. Movies about dying girls all suffer as the same sort of melancholic dramedy and need a hook to set it apart. 2018

Directed by: Stephanie Laing

Screenplay by: Bess Wohl

Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michiel Huisman

Irreplaceable You’s hook is that Abbie and Sam (Michiel Huisman) have been in love with each other since childhood. The next stage in their destiny is marriage and children, except Abbie got her diagnosis. They did promise to love each other until death, but death wasn’t supposed to be a few months away. Abbie’s immediate response is practicality: cancel the wedding, get that deposit back, and cancel her gym membership while she’s at it since she won’t be going there anymore. That’s the comedy that is sprinkled throughout most of the beginning - welcome if not very inspiring.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michiel Huisman in IRREPLACEABLE YOU. Photo credit: Linda Kellerus, Netflix
Back to the hook: Abbie now needs to find Sam someone new to love. He’s never had to date before, Abbie thinks he’s incompetent around women, and she needs to find someone else to take care of him after she’s gone. This plan only accounts for a minor part of the plot. It’s the one thing that made it different and keep it afloat above the drama of death, but the film ended up spending more time on Abbie and examining why she’s trying to control the few things she thinks she can control.

I appreciated the response of everyone around Abbie more than I appreciated Abbie herself. Sam’s responses to Abbie’s attempts to hook him up were really good. He managed to keep his patience in check through all her insane ideas. He responds the way you hope loved ones would respond. Abbie’s mother’s approach is the motherly approach you would expect: she hates Abbie’s abruptness and finality way of thinking, she just wants to focus on the optimistic side of treatment.

The other main aspect of the film is Abbie joining a support group – which she doesn’t really like but goes anyways. It’s a minor point but one which is done in every dying girl movie and it’s starting to get very tiring. She makes one new friend (Christopher Walken) and mostly ignores the others. However, there is one great addition in the support group. SNL star Kate McKinnon plays a fellow cancer sufferer where she has this natural comedic presence until the end when she delivers a powerfully effective punch about the drama of life and death.

Irreplaceable You is a mostly subdued film. There are a few moments of comedy which are handled reasonably well, but ultimately it goes for the drama of a dying girl which has been done many times before. The childhood love angle is not enough to set it apart.

Other Titles:

The Big Sick

If I Stay

To the Bone

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl