Actors: Kat Dennings, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend, Corbin Bleu
Director: Nathan Frankowski
Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Subtitles: Chinese, Korean
Number of discs: 1
Studio: SONY PICTURES
DVD Release Date: March 3, 2015
Run Time: 118 minutes
I’m not sure what the reason was for the delay of this film being released after its initial 2012 festival run, but the delay resulted in the film becoming one of the casualties of the Sony Pictures Studio hack. I would like to say that this is the reason for the underwhelming reception of To Write Love on Her Arms, but the sad reality is that this is exactly the type of film that will always get dumped into home entertainment formats. I would have thought 2012 would have been a great time to release a film starring the rising star, Kat Dennings, following her 2011 successes with her new sitcom, “Two Broke Girls,” and the supporting role in Thor. Unfortunately, small personalized dramas don’t have the same mass appeal as sex-obsessed sitcoms and comic book blockbusters, but I would be willing to bet that To Write Love on Her Arms has more potential for connecting with its audience, however specific it may be.
Ultimately, that’s the biggest sin of this film; it tries to impact those who are suffering similar problems as the film’s protagonist, rather than attempting to sell to the widest audience possible. In trying to sell as many tickets as possible, few blockbusters offend or bore any demographic, while few also have much to say that will impact the audience beyond the sound of the explosions. This is a very simple narrative about a girl who is depressed and reliant on drugs and alcohol until she is given the opportunity to change. Inspired by a movement with the same name as the title, the film tells the simple but specific story of Renee Yohe (Dennings) as she detoxes with a group of supportive friends prior to entering rehab for six months.
Deciding she no longer wants to be addicted is only the first step to a long road of recovery for Renee when the rehab center refuses to take her until she has had five days of sobriety. With her parents refusing to take her in after years of drug-addled behavior, Renee has only her two high school friends to rely on. Jessie (Juliana Harkavy) still resents her, but Dylan (Mark Saul) has enough faith in their friendship to convince his boss to take them in for the five days. David McKenna (Rupert Friend) is a music producer with a former drug addiction of his own, and agrees to help with the process he has gone through himself. They are eventually joined by Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael Murray), David’s friend who would eventually write the article that started the movement the film is based on.
Relationships are at the center of the storyline, along with the ways in which art helped Renee towards recovery. Most of the relationships are made believable and engaging due to the talented cast, even when the screenplay occasionally ventures into the territory of an after school special. The one character that comes off a bit false is Jamie, whose do-good nature without clear intention or purpose feels somewhat fabricated or at least presented with some bias. When the real-life Jamie Tworkowski popped up on screen to provide a message about the foundation, it became clear why this character is presented without flaws or even believable depth. This is a shame, because there are moments that the narrative could easily have questioned the motivation of the one character that seems dangerously close to exploiting the experiences of the real Renee for creative gratification. It doesn’t help much to have Chad Michael Murray in the role either, however easily he falls back into the role of providing revelatory voiceover through much of the final act as though he were back on production of “One Tree Hill.”
These are small failures in a creatively ambitious film about addiction and depression, and ultimately the good intentions of filmmaker Nathan Frankowski is enough to forgive the narrative shortcomings. The DVD special features includes a handful of deleted scenes, on-set video blogs from the several of the real-life people the story is based on, and a handful of featurettes about everything from the characters to the music used within the film. Some of these featurettes are merely short marketing videos meant to sell the film, while a few have actual information. A portion of the proceeds made from the DVD sales will also be donated to the non-profit organization which the film at times feels like a long advertisement for.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 6.5/10