Out on Netflix today, Irreplaceable You tackles some difficult questions: What would you do if you knew you were going to die? What would you do if you knew the love of your life was going to die? What would it look like if Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon were crocheting together in a cancer support group? (The answer to that last one: incredible.)
Irreplaceable You, brought to life by a starry cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror: San Junipero, A Wrinkle in Time) and Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Orphan Black), is director and producer Stephanie Laing’s debut film, though she’s had a lot of experience producing shows including Veep and Eastbound & Down. In the movie, we meet Abbie (Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Huisman), freshly-engaged childhood sweethearts. The couple is thrown off, though, when Abbie is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and since neither has ever dated anyone else, Abbie goes on a mission to find the woman Sam will fall in love with after her passing.
In a way, Irreplaceable You is the quintessential 2018 romantic comedy. There is sugary sweet love between friends, family, strangers, and—of course—soulmates, but there’s an urgency and, underpinning it all, a dark sense of humor and bravery in the face of tragedy and chaos. At the Netflix original’s premiere, BUST chatted a bit with the cast and crew about the movie, the genre of the romantic dramedy, and women in Hollywood.
BUST: Tell me a bit about what it’s like to be a female director in 2018.
Stephanie Laing: It’s better than it was in 2017. (Laughs.) It’s getting better, it’s getting better. I still think we have to make our own opportunities. This movie was a labor of love, but I had to seek it out. I read somewhere that someone had said something like, “Stephanie was given this opportunity…” and I thought, “No, I wasn’t given the opportunity. I went out, I got Sherry Thomas to cast it, we brought in Jonathan Tropper to produce it, and we got this amazing cast. We worked on it for hours! I think you still have to make your own opportunities.
What makes Irreplaceable You stand out from other romantic comedies and terminal-illness movies out there?
Laing: It’s a little more irreverant, has a little more attitude. I think there are a lot of things that are said in the support group that aren’t shocking, but feel real, honest. It’s a little earnest, but I think it’s earned. And I don’t think it ends in a way that’s telling anyone how to live their lives. It’s just that this is her story, this is what happened, this sucks.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: I think that there is a boldness to the tone of this movie. There’s a lot of movies about cancer, there’s lots of romantic comedies, but I think there’s something here that is this tonal tightrope of embracing the absurd in a dire situation.
Farah Abushwesha (Producer): We never lost sight of the story that we wanted to tell, and we never lost sight of the film that we wanted to make. I think when you tell a story with truth, it always keeps its head well above the water.
What do you hope viewers take away from this film?
Laing: I hope that they feel emotionally satisfied, that they go home and hug their loved ones. Appreciate life.
Mbatha-Raw: This movie is really about letting go and accepting your situation, being in the present, living in the moment, not worrying about the future or the past, and I think there’s something very spiritual about that message.
Are there any women in film you particuarly admire, and would love to work with in the future?
Abushwesha: I’d love to work with Greta Gerwig. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of directors and female talent, and it’s always so exciting to work with women.
Laing: I think Suzanne Todd is an incredible producer. I recently met her and was kind of in awe of her as a creator, as a producer.
Michiel Huisman: I mostly worked with Gugu on this project, but it was definitely not enough for me. I loved it. I would take any project that she worked on.
Irreplaceable You is now streaming on Netflix.
Top photo via Netflix
More from BUST
Lydia Wang is a writer, pug enthusiast, and hopeless romantic. She lives in New York, writes for BUST, and overshares on Twitter: @lydiaetc.