“Irreplaceable” is the story of a search that becomes more of a profile.
Tim Sisarich is a filmmaker from New Zealand who sets out to discover what is wrong with the modern family. The nuclear two-parent, two-child family is losing ground in the 21st century, and Sisarich wants to find out why.
His search, presented documentary-style over the course of 85 minutes, is a globetrotting affair that takes him from the ruins of Ancient Greece, all through America and back home to New Zealand.
For the first half of the documentary, Sisarich intercuts his own narration and musings with interview footage drawn from a variety of social scientists, writers and other figures. These interviews trace a narrative path through contemporary perspectives on subjects like sexuality, marriage and fatherhood, and focus on how the devaluing of each topic has contributed to our modern milieu.
The most obvious audience for “Irreplaceable” would be those who already agree that the family is in trouble. Throughout his narrative, the director contrasts worldly perspectives on the aforementioned subjects with the opinions of the experts he interviews, who explain the reasoning behind each particular degeneration.
For example, in discussing the challenge of modern parenthood and eroding gender roles, Professor Helen Avare of George Mason University describes the feminism of the 1960s and ‘70s as a kind of misdirected rebellion, where instead of demanding respect for different gender roles, leadership demanded that the differences be dissolved.
Elsewhere, Christian speaker John Stonestreet describes how the concept of freedom as applied to sexuality became distorted into more of a “free for all” meaning. Later, Jonathan Last, author of “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting,” explains how the subversion of the “iron triangle” of sex, marriage and procreation by birth control and cohabitation have contributed to our current cultural standards.
Other interviews examine the impact of divorce rates, the value of work vs. natural compatibility in marriage and, during one sobering sequence, the massive abortion totals that have resulted from China’s gender-based population control policies.
There’s quite a bit of finger-pointing early on, but eventually Sisarich’s frustration leads him to a more introspective examination, and “Irreplaceable” becomes a personal piece about a man trying to reconcile his own role as a father and a husband. Later interviews with subjects like Gene Wohlburg, whose volunteer work helps him deal with past demons, puts a more human touch on the documentary.
“Irreplaceable” is an interesting look at the reasoning behind our culture’s attitudes on various family-related issues. Because it approaches issues from one perspective, it won’t resolve debate so much as validate the feelings of its supportive audience, but its ultimate message of personal responsibility should transcend many of the differing perspectives it leapfrogs along the way.
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“Irreplaceable” will be featured Tuesday, May 6, for a one-night release sponsored by Focus on the Family. It will be showing in nine theaters along the Wasatch Front. See www.irreplaceablethemovie.com/index.html for more details. The film is not rated but would probably receive a PG for some mild language and sexual content.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at woundedmosquito.com.