Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michiel Huisman Are Doomed Lovers in Netflix’s ‘Irreplaceable You’
A woman’s work is never done. Even when staring death in the face there is that innate need to worry about the welfare of others. In the latest Netflix offering “Irreplaceable You,” this is the case for Abbie Gordon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a 31-year-old New York woman, whose hopes of marrying and having a life with her childhood sweetheart Sam (Michiel Huisman) are dashed when she receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. There is no glimmer of hope here, as the first scene of the film is of the cemetery in which Abbie ends up before the end of 2017, making it clear that her narration is coming from beyond the grave. From there, the film focuses on Abbie’s journey in finding closure with, predictably, more than a few bumps on the road.
Almost immediately after her diagnosis, Abbie has to deal with how this affects those around her, such as her mother (Tamara Tunie), who blames poor parenting choices, such as letting her daughter drink diet soda, on her daughter’s condition. But Abbie concerns herself with his Sam, with whom she shares the kind of rare love only seen in the movies. Having fallen for each other in elementary school, neither one of them has been with anyone else. Abbie, having the stronger personality, has been the leader of the pair these past 20 years or so, and now is overwhelmingly concerned about how Sam will cope after she is gone. So concerned is Abbie that she takes it upon herself to make Sam a dating profile and even interview potential girlfriends. She even goes as far as to spend her remaining savings on a ring for Sam to give to whichever lucky lady he ends up with. The funny thing is, the most clueless thing we see Sam do is wear a pair of mismatched socks, which actually isn’t that much of an offense due to him being color blind, leading one to believe that Abbie is more of a control freak than he is a helpless guy.
Whether it’s true love or neurosis that causes Abbie to behave in such a way is up for debate, but most of those around her believe the latter, especially Myron (Christopher Walken), a fellow cancer patient whom she meets in a support group whose humorous outlook on life and death takes her mind off her own situation. Also bringing the funny is none other than Kate McKinnon, who plays another member of the support group and often makes the others uncomfortable with her relatively light-hearted attitude, but gets to give the best monologue of the entire film towards the end.
There are some real moving, tender moments in “Irreplaceable You,” and while the film doesn’t fail in pulling on the heartstrings, it doesn’t quite reach the emotional depths of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” or “Bright Star.” The end here feels a bit unfinished, but this may have been a deliberate choice made by writer Bess Wohl and director Stephanie Laing to make a point about life; there are always loose ends at the finale, no matter how much time one has to prepare.
“Irreplaceable You” premieres Feb. 16 on Netflix.