Presenting the story of a young couple who find themselves being torn apart by the fragility of the human condition, Irreplaceable You sets a narrative standard that turns against itself and becomes part of the obstacles it faces to become memorable for the viewers. Labeling itself a “tearjerker,” the film does not get to that point, as its attempt at comedy trumps the chance it had to connect emotionally to the audience.
The film presented itself with such potential, it is unfortunate to watch it go to waste not long after the dilemma for our protagonists is presented. It is a shame, given how great of a start it had. Based on the first couple of scenes, all you can expect is an endearing, quirky and heartwarming romantic dramedy. It is confusing to see the film stray away from this take, opting instead for a cynical approach to comedy that turns the scenes into unlikable situations that drag on. Eventually, you forget about how you are supposed to care for the main characters, and wonder only about what else can they pull to make things awkward or worse.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) plays Abbie, who finds her future dreams crushed by the announcement that she has cancer at her young age. Abbie slowly becomes an issue of the story, as she does not really develop or experience an intrapersonal journey given her condition. Instead, the movie pushes her into unnatural situations and dialogue that, instead of coming off as endearingly funny, are plainly annoying. The parts that Abbie spends with the support group are close to unwatchable, not even Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live) and Christopher Walken (no background needed, you know who he is) can save them with their charisma.
Michiel Huisman’s (Game of Thrones) performance was a highlight sometimes; unfortunately, his character —Abbie’s boyfriend— found himself relegated to the side throughout most of the film, reacting to Abbie’s attempts to help him “move on” and fall in love with someone else…while they are still, technically, engaged.
Now, the film is not necessarily unwatchable; it lacks a structure to sustain itself as feature-length movie. This is not really surprising, as director Stephanie Laing has only a handful of titles under her directing belt, which are shorts and a couple of episodes of the critical darling series Veep. Although this first feature presents a step in the wrong direction for Laing, it is still too early in her directorial career to use it a basis to critique her as a whole. She has found success in the role of producer, and hopefully this learning curve presents to her an opportunity to look for other directorial opportunities in the future.
In the end, Irreplaceable You would not connect at all with the audience. If you are looking for something fresh on the Netflix catalog, you can skip this one.