Irreplaceable You feels like a movie tailor-made to make its audience weep. It opens with a woman narrating from the grave, informing us that he has died and this is the end of her story. We soon backtrack to the point at which she was diagnosed with cancer. The movie follows what happens from that point to her death. Knowing how it turns out makes every action and sequence more emotional. At least, in theory.
And if you’re partial to tearjerkers, knowing that you’ll cry at any sad thing regardless of the execution—and you want to see a movie that’ll trigger that, then you’ll probably want to check out Irreplaceable You. Because it’s theoretically sad, but so painfully obvious about it and lacking in strong characters that it isn’t going to do anything for those who are not predisposed to sad-enjoying these sorts of things.
The film follows Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman), an engaged couple. Abbie gets cancer and is convinced she’s going to die—we know that she will. We watch her go through her treatment, befriend members of a support group, and—in the film’s most novel conceit—tries to find a new woman for Sam. You know, because who better to find a replacement for you than you, I suppose. It doesn’t take a behavioral therapist to figure out how this is going to play out. And the truth is that the movie doesn’t do a ton with this, anyway.
Abbie and Sam are likable but not terribly well-developed characters. The plot, which is rather lacking, doesn’t do much to allow us to get to know them as people. They don’t feel terribly real, in that they only act in service of the plot or the type of attitude it’s trying to convey at the time. Getting too dark? Let’s make a joke or sarcastic remark! Too light? Remind us about the impending death.
Some movies feel pointless. Not bad, but lacking in purpose. Irreplaceable You is one of those.
It also feels incredibly inevitable, not just in terms of plot but in terms of purpose. We know how it’s all going to go down, the movie is pretty transparent about it all, and it makes us wonder what the point is. It’s without the characters to make the tearjerker effective and without a somewhat fresh point to make to engage us otherwise. It’s not terribly bad, either; it doesn’t offend us with a lack of quality or make for a poor viewing experience. It just doesn’t feel like much of anything.
Irreplaceable You does have good acting. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a charismatic lead, and she does what she can to try to bring something of value to the project. Michiel Huisman is more of a non-entity, in large part because it’s not his movie, and because of the largely thin character. Supporting actors like Christopher Walken, Kate McKinnon, and Steve Coogan show up for a few scenes, with only Walken making anything of an impression on us.
Some movies feel pointless. Not bad, but lacking in purpose. Irreplaceable You is one of those. It’s all so simple and predetermined that we all know what it’s going to do much before it does. It doesn’t have anything to say and it doesn’t have strong enough characters to work as an effective tearjerker for anyone who isn’t predisposed to enjoying those sorts of things regardless of the execution. It’s theoretically sad but in actuality much of nothing.
Conclusion: Irreplaceable You isn’t a terrible movie but it is a pretty pointless one.
Recommendation: Irreplaceable You is only worthwhile if you love tearjerkers regardless of their execution.