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Irreplaceable is a Focus on the Family documentary.
"Attitudes about marriage have shifted dramatically since our parents were kids," says a reporter in a news feature titled "To Marry or Not." With cameras rolling, this news anchor goes on to explain, "There was a time when men and women married in their 20s, had a couple of kids and bought a new house. For a lot of reasons those days are disappearing, and many of us are OK with that."
Sadly, this video footage early in Irreplaceable sets the stage well for the journey viewers are about to take—a journey to discover why "those days are disappearing," and more importantly how they might be brought back and how culturally we can become much less "OK with that."
When I first screened Irreplaceable, I had no plans to review it (primarily because, as a 22-year Focus on the Family staff member, I couldn't initially figure out how to do it and still come across as credible). Right away when I first saw the film I told my team, "I like this!" I've now seen it twice, and my initial reaction hasn't changed. As a movie reviewer who sees nearly 150 films a year, I must admit I could offer a couple of suggestions to improve the viewing experience, but they're not major ones. Overall, I am impressed with how professional-looking my own ministry's first theatrical release is, and more importantly I am moved by its timely and important content. I even fired off an email to the executive producer of Irreplaceable, Mitch Wright, Focus' director of films, in which I wrote, "This is a film we can be truly proud of."
Two Big Questions
So what exactly is this movie all about? In a nutshell, Irreplaceable seeks to answer two fundamental life questions: 1) What is family? And 2) Does family still matter in today's society?
Now if you're thinking to yourself that you already know the answers, that's great! But just like a happily married couple can still significantly benefit from a well-structured marriage retreat, so too can those who already believe in the traditional family greatly benefit from Irreplaceable. And if you're not completely sure about those answers, I can assure you this documentary lays out the arguments for you clearly and succinctly.
To unpack the two big central questions, host Tim Sisarich, former executive director of Focus on the Family New Zealand, literally kisses his wife and five children good-bye, boards a plane in Auckland and asks viewers to travel with him to diverse destinations in search of answers.
"They've asked me to take a journey," explains Sisarich, "to take a genuine look at the issues that are affecting families most, to really investigate what's happening ... to travel to the ends of the earth if necessary to find out what is wrong with the family."
Going to the Ends of the Earth
As Tim travels to France, Russia, Italy, Greece, England, India and Israel, among other places, he chats with experts in a variety of fields: Eric Metaxas, Dr. Roger Scruton, Nancy Pearcey, John Stonestreet, Michael Medved, Gabe and Rebekah Lyons, Dr. Anne Moir, Helen Alvaré and Carey Casey, just to name a few. Each specialist explores what family really means, why family is important to humanity and the forces contributing to its breakdown. But lest you think that the latter might turn this documentary into a downer, the takeaway is just the opposite. Sure, there's negative information here that begs to be processed and wrestled with, but instead of wanting to hide out in some cave somewhere, I found that, overall, Irreplaceable offers hope. Hope that no matter where we are on the continuum of life as a member of a family, it's never too late to become a better father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother or sister.
Furthermore, I'd like to laud the film's pacing—something that's especially important with documentaries. In addition to the experts, there are interspersed "man-on-the-street" interviews here that more often than not express an opinion or belief that runs contrary to the documentary's overall message. They serve, then, as a reminder that the traditional view of family is far from universally held these days. Then, when Sisarich retires to his hotel room after a long day on the road, he regularly offers personal reflections on what's just transpired. These "from the heart" and "off the cuff " ruminations add just the right balance from a man who's a father, a son, an expert, a host, a husband and a seeker.
A cautionary note: Some of the subject matter in Irreplaceable covers topics that deal with sexuality and family issues that may be too explicit for children. For instance, at one point the film explores the implications of our society's "anything-goes" view of sexuality and today's "hookup culture," and the ramifications those things have on marriage. Thus, there are some sensual visuals (Think: Miley Cyrus onstage at MTV's Video Music Awards) and scenes of hard-partying collegians. One interviewee blurts out "h---" as an expletive. You know your children best, but Focus on the Family suggests ages 15 and older.
What is family? Does family still matter in today's society? Can the breakdown of the family be reversed? Is there hope amid the negative statistics and the rise of vocal opponents who desire to redefine the family? Irreplaceable calmly and clearly examines these crucial questions (and many more) through an array of lenses.
For more information about the film, go to irreplaceablethemovie.com.