As a romantic drama, Irreplaceable You conforms to many of the genre’s greatest clichés. The characters are somewhat predictable; the self-centred mother, the unlikely confidante and the overbearing best friend play their roles in a plot which stereotypically revolves around a newly-engaged couple who are hopelessly in love at the start of the film, have a tiff in the middle, and make up again at the end.
What ultimately sets Irreplaceable You apart from countless other romantic dramas is director Stephanie Laing’s daring decision to explore the subgenre of terminal romance. Despite an impressive cast, including Christopher Walken, Steve Coogan and Kate McKinnon, the film’s original plot is what makes it memorable.
Protagonist Abbi has recently proposed to her childhood sweetheart Sam, and is enthusiastically planning their wedding when a sudden diagnosis of terminal cancer puts her future on hold. Rather than fast-track her wedding or complete her bucket-list, control freak Abbi copes with the immense psychological trauma of this sudden diagnosis by creating a personal mission to find a replacement girlfriend for Sam after she inevitably passes. Out of her love for him, she wants to ensure Sam can have a happy future rather than one wracked with grief and loneliness. As a result, Abbi uses dating apps to find her replacement and even buys an engagement ring Sam can use in the future. Like in fellow Netflix Original 13 Reasons Why, Irreplaceable You relieves the viewer from heartache by revealing from the start that Abbi does ultimately die.
While attempts at humour fall flat at times, and the film often overuses gushy lovey-dovey scenes, Irreplaceable You offers an insight into anticipatory grief and is a poignant reminder that it’s not always possible to control destiny, both of our own lives and of those of others.