This is Us is the special kind of romantic drama that isn’t obnoxiously oft-putting and atrociously cheesy, it’s a sweet and contemplative story of two people meeting, falling in love, causing each other irreparable harm, living with resentment towards one another, and facing the inevitable possibility of parting ways. It’s not a warm and gooey romance like the kind that Channing Tatum was repeatedly forced to make before 21 Jump Street, and thankfully it’s not for the Target Mommy porn pandering crowd like Fifty Shades of Grey where they fly helicopters, wear stupid masks, and exposit lines written by a writer with the subtlety and intelligence of a bullied 14 year-old girl with severe head trauma and unrestricted access to HBO and Cinemax after 10pm in the 90’s. This is the kind of romantic drama that feels real. This is Us features moments between the two acting leads that are uncomfortable to watch because it feels like we’re really there stuck in a room while these two have it out with each other. We hate when they make mistakes, we hate them when they make irrational decisions based on heightened emotions, and we just want them to stay together and get along for fuck’s sake…holy shit, watching this movie is like watching Mom and Dad meet, fall in love, and teeter towards a tragic divorce. This is Us makes its audience feel levels of emotional investment that most modern films of its genre can’t even come close to matching. This film doesn’t threaten us with a predictable happy ending where all the problems have worked themselves out and everything is fixed in the end, instead, it serves as a sobering reminder that sometimes even after all things two people have been through, it just doesn’t work out. I’m not saying the film ends on a sad note, I’m just saying it keeps you guessing and never feels hokey.
“…makes its audience feel levels of emotional investment that most modern films of its genre can’t even come close to matching.”
This is Us opens with Daniela (Jessica Lynn Parsons) and Brendan (Raymond Creamer) at the beach, obviously in love and holding each other closely. Next, we see Daniela tell Brendan she no longer loves him. The film ingeniously jumps around to various points in their relationship at breakneck speed, and for some reason, this storytelling device really works for me here. We see some of their most brutal fights juxtaposed with their sweetest and most tender moments. Jessica Lynn Parsons and Raymond Creamer (who also wrote the film) are amazing together. I think Parsons has a few weak moments with her acting, but overall she does fantastic and like I said earlier, this film’s power comes from its ability to feel real. It’s easy to root for Daniela and Brendan as a couple, and when things start to go downhill for them, there’s no clear-cut bad guy in the scenario. So many films try and single out the guy as the moron who ruined everything with his womanizing, or his lack of thoughtfulness, or the woman as being a heartless bitch who gets off with backstabbing and lies, but that’s rarely the case in real relationships, and it’s refreshing to see this reflected on screen. You sympathize with Daniela and you want her to get her shit together, and you hate Brendan for screwing things up, but you’re hoping he can somehow use his charm and humor to make it all better. As the film progresses, it deviates from the norm by somehow giving Daniela the power to relive certain instances with the limited power to change them. There is no explanation and no explicit rules to the time travel thing, and honestly, it doesn’t really affect things as much as it could of, but it does raise a lot of interesting questions. Would you go back in time and stop yourself from meeting someone you’d eventually fall in love with knowing full well it wouldn’t work out in the end? Sure, you’d save yourself heartbreak, but you’d also lose all the good times and the lessons learned. Would it be worth it? Fantastic questions I wish this film would have explored a bit more. One of the best scenes in This is Us is watching Daniela wake up at the party she first met Brendan at, see him from afar, and realize she has the power to stop this all before it starts. She leaves abruptly and breaks down crying, realizing she just erased all those special moments between the two of them. It’s a hauntingly sad scene that turns around when Brendan shows up to introduce himself despite Daniela’s initial efforts to sabotage their history. Their chemistry, particularly in this scene, is on point.
“…this film’s power comes from its ability to feel real.”
I highly recommend This is Us to those who like their romance stories a bit darker and less optimistic than the usual fluff. It doesn’t follow a tired formula or feature corny dialogue that’ll give you diabetes, but it’s still a wonderfully deep and beautiful look into the lives of two people who, despite occasionally majorly fucking up, have a strong connection to one another. The film is well written, mostly well acted, well shot, and incredibly engaging. Definitely, give This is Us a watch.
This is Us (2017) Directed by: Jerry J. White III. Written by: Raymond Creamer. Starring: Jessica Lynn Parsons, Raymond Creamer, Tracey Fairaway, Becca Scott, Kayli Tran
8 out of 10