Let me start by saying that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of my absolute favorite actors, male or female. So, it breaks my heart that I thoroughly did not enjoy Netflix’s latest original film. Directed by Stephanie Laing, Irreplaceable You shares Abbi’s journey as she learns she is dying of cancer not long after she becomes engaged to her life-long boyfriend, played by Michiel Huisman, and tries to find him a potential mate for after she dies. Along the way with treatment, Abbi encounters different people struggling with cancer as well, like Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon.
The all-star cast makes the film enticing, with the always-solid Tamara Tunie and Brian Tyree Henry. Somehow, though, the strong supporting staff isn’t able to support Mbatha-Raw in this lackluster movie. It’s not necessarily because their performances are bad. Actually, it’s the opposite. The supporting cast performances are great but at times their roles seem insignificant to the plot as a whole. Tunie’s role as Abbi’s mother loses any opportunity of a thoughtful character arc or value in her confrontation with her daughter towards the end of the film because their dynamic before Abbi is diagnosed is not provided Abbi’s friendship with Walken’s character, Myron is the most charming relationship in the film, but it’s not the relationship that should serve the most purpose.
Abbi and Sam coming to terms with the truth that they will soon be separated by death after being together since they were children is the heart of the film. The romance movie lacks something it needs most–romance. They are undeniably cute, but their relationship never goes beyond that. After her fatal diagnosis, Abbi makes it her mission to ensure that her childhood love will be okay without her, creating strain between her and Sam. When they fight it’s not believable since the root of the argument isn’t deep enough. Abbi worries that Sam will have a difficulty on his own since they’ve been together their whole lives, but the answer to her concerns is simple–he won’t be alright. Of course, Sam will struggle after losing the love of his life, and the answer is too obvious to drive the story. The film’s central dilemma isn’t strong enough to carry a 1 hour and 36-minute movie and prevents Abbi and Sam from going beyond cute until the end.
The most disappointing part of Netflix’s latest film is how much it is a disservice to Mbatha-Raw. Despite the under-developed story, Mbatha-Raw is still as intriguing as she consistently is in all of her projects. Yet, her natural talent can’t help this one-note film. Her ability to express every genuine emotion is misused with the constant life’s ultimate questions dialogue. The stellar actress’ skill can’t be praised without good material. Mbatha-Raw is one of the best in the industry today, leaving her mark in Belle and Beyond the Lights, and it’s time for her to be given roles that allow her to elevate great stories again. Her performance could’ve been the solution to a flawed film, but the story was just too boring to build momentum.
Through my eyes,