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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that from the opening scene of Irreplaceable You, which takes place at a cemetery, viewers are aware of the death of one of the two principal players. What follows is a story told in flashback about a young couple who fall in love as children and whose life together is cut short by a fateful illness. Expect familiar situations and moments: doctor visits, chemotherapy, support group sessions, along with some conflict emanating from the relationships explored. None of it, however, is intense -- no scenes of the ravages of cancer, no discomfiting physical changes, no apparent pain or suffering. Characters do swear, however. Numerous instances of "s--t," "f--k," "ass," and "slut" are heard, along with some more colorful references to pig orgasms, a "rat's t-ts," and "schmuck." Drinking of alcoholic beverages occurs in a number of social settings, including one scene in which the hero drinks too much, and another in which he and his friend share a joint. And, at its core, it's a love story, so there are romantic scenes of kissing and embracing, as well as some conversations with mild sexual content.
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What's the story?
Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman) have been in love since they were little kids in IRREPLACEABLE YOU. Now they're grown-ups. She works in publishing; he's a college teacher. They're deep into planning their wedding, and the future couldn't look brighter. When Abbie shows signs of an early pregnancy, it only increases their joy. Unfortunately, when they visit the doctor, they discover that Abbie isn't pregnant. She has a "tangerine-sized" tumor. Further tests reveal that it's stage 4 cancer. Active treatment may prolong Abbie's life, but the outlook is bleak. And so the two embark upon what will certainly be their last journey together. Abbie opts for chemotherapy, visits with her mom, and participates in a support group (with Steve Coogan, Christopher Walken, and Kate McKinnon to invigorate the proceedings). Sam is a willing partner, loving and accessible. But Abbie has other plans to implement as well. Hoping to lessen Sam's suffering and grief, she sets out to find a woman he can love afterward. If nothing else has caused the already fraught situation to erupt in conflict, Abbie's plan certainly does. The very heart of their relationship is threatened, and that may be the saddest part of it all.
Is it any good?
Meant as a touching and tender love story, this unoriginal movie simply presents pretty people who are happy, pretty people who get sad, and some quirky featured characters. One-dimensional people in Irreplaceable You behave mostly in expected ways. The central conceit -- that a dying young woman wants to protect (read control) her longtime beloved after she's gone -- has been played before, better, and with more wit and certainly more passion. Wasted in a few silly scenes about crocheting being a metaphor for life are a "support" group of fine actors, led by Steve Coogan, and giving Christopher Walken a little more screen time to deliver his plucky life lessons. This movie is bland and forgettable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people are drawn to "sad movies." What emotions do films like Irreplaceable You tap into? Do you think it may be an effective way to consider real sadness and life-changing events from a safe place?
In Irreplaceable You, Abbie has cancer. If you've been a witness to someone living with cancer, or if you've seen the disease portrayed in other movies (or stories), how realistically was the illness depicted? How realistic do you think the support group scenes were? When filmmakers "sanitize" the truth, is that OK with you? Why or why not?
What is meant by the film's declaration: "Don't focus on what if. Focus on what is."