Released: 16th February 2018
Seen: 5th April 2018
“Insane things are normal”
Abbie (Played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Played by Michiel Huisman) have been a couple since they were Eight. From the moment that Abbie bit Sam inside an aquarium, the two of them were meant to be together and are hopeful that maybe they can start a family now that Abbie is starting to show symptoms of pregnancy. Sadly, those symptoms aren’t of a pregnancy but of multiple tumours in her stomach. Having to struggle with cancer is one thing but Abbie knows that once she’s gone, there’s a good chance Sam will be completely alone with no chance of finding another girl because he is just so awkward. So Abbie sets out to use her remaining time wisely, by trying to set Sam up with a girlfriend to look after him after she’s gone.
In theory, the idea of a film where someone tries to set their partner up with another person could work. Hell, it HAS worked in the past. Zelos pulled off almost this exact same idea except there the set up was done in order to relieve guilt over a previous infidelity and here it’s done because Abbie believes Sam can’t survive without her or some other woman and needs to be looked after. It’s a tough idea to pull off and I’m absolutely sure there is a way to do this that doesn’t make Abbie look completely crazy but here, she comes off as controlling and everyone else in the film sees it. It’s a radically bad idea that isn’t justified by the actions of her partner who, at his worst, wears odd socks. The reason for her to try and set him up posthumously with another woman isn’t there and that automatically makes it so much harder to take this idea seriously.
“Abbie is type A and Sam is type Z”
What helps this movie work is its main cast, who are pretty amazing. I enjoyed Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her lead role during The Cloverfield Paradox so it’s nice to see her getting to show off more here. She gives the character a charm that flows throughout the entire picture and she finds ways to show every stage of grief in a way that’s very sweet and charming. Michiel Huisman is completely unrecognizable from his work on Game of Thrones, losing the beard lets him really sell this innocent shy nerdy character that has a wicked sense of humour that actually makes you completely understand how he managed to get someone like Abbie. The two of them have some adorable chemistry that really makes you hope for the best for them both. The side cast is fine, Christopher Walken shines as Myron who is a no-bullshit cancer patient who just calls out Abbie at every decision and its kind of amazing. The one who stands out as not really helping the story is Kate McKinnon who seems like she’s just there to be Kate McKinnon, which is fine but maybe don’t name her character “Glass Half Full Kate” and actually give her something of value to do.
The dialogue teeters back and forth between funny and cheesy. Some jokes really land wonderfully, their bed talks about what Sam would do if Abbie were transgender or in a cult or taken by gypsies are genuinely heartwarming and funny. Then there are the dramatic voice-overs that aren’t needed and just detract from the story. No one, I repeat, NO ONE needs to hear a voiceover saying “I’m Abbie Suchandsuch and this is my story”, especially when the framework of your narrative doesn’t lend itself to the idea of voice-overs. To look to another current movie, Love, Simon also uses a lot of voice over to tell stories but those are usually done by Simon while he’s writing emails, it create’s a framework that makes it understandable why we’re hearing this disembodied voice. Here, it’s just Abbie talking to us from beyond the grave (And before you scream spoiler, that’s literally the opening shot of the movie, it’s told almost entirely in flashback which removes almost all of the tension).
“I’ve been dying longer than you have”
There’s nothing truly amazing about how this film looks either, it’s serviceable but it’s also a comedy/drama film so no one is expecting wild camera angles. I do kind of expect the film not to reuse shots when it’s not needed, and they do that here (Or at least filmed an almost identical take in the exact same location while wearing the same clothes, it’s bad either way). They also screw up the fundamentals of montage in one scene where Abbie is interviewing potential future girlfriends. As they said in Team America “With every shot, show a little improvement”. Here? It just jumps back and forth, we see 2 girls out of 5 she allegedly interviews, there is no real structure. What could’ve been a hilarious scene becomes awkward due to poor editing, a problem that pops up several times thanks to not just the poor choice of repeated shots but also some awkward audio moments that really stand out when you’re watching a Netflix movie with headphones.
There is still a lot to enjoy about Irreplaceable You, it’s got a fairly large amount of charm and warmth that buys it a lot of goodwill. It’s got some good characters and a pretty nice concept but there’s a lot of moments when it’s executed poorly and some choices in the scripting stage that should’ve gotten another look at. It’s not going to change the world but it might provide some mild entertainment for an hour and a half.