To Write Love On Her Arms Parent Review
It all began at a Halloween party. Okay, not all of it. Somewhere between her fanciful childhood and rebellious teenaged years, Renee Yohe (Kat Dennings) learned fairytales weren’t real and her own desires for happily-ever-after were challenged by mental illness. However, that fateful celebration in October appears to be the day she surrendered her dreams.
The invitation came from Sean (William Peltz), one of the most popular guys in the school. Despite concerns from her best friends Dylan and Jessie (Mark Saul and Juliana Harkavy), Renee persuades them to attend. It doesn’t take long for the drinking and sensual dancing to convince her somewhat conservative chums to head home. Yet Renee is too intoxicated to go with them - partly from Sean’s attention, but mostly from whatever it was she sipped out of the cup he gave her.
From that moment on Renee only seems interested in getting high. Her social circle shifts (which is depicted through a clever montage sequence of ever-changing hairdos, clothing styles and acquaintances) to an increasingly darker cluster of users and pushers who pass around cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs (including cocaine). There is nothing glamorous about her new buddies or the crack houses where she hangs out, yet she can’t stay away from them. Or at least not until an older dealer (J. LaRose) decides to collect payment from the stoned girl by taking Renee to a private place and raping her. (We hear her muffled protest from outside the bedroom door.) Desperate after this event, Renee finally calls for help.
Although Dylan and Jessie come to collect her, they really aren’t sure what they can do for their former schoolmate. So they introduce her to David McKenna (Rupert Friend), a recovering addict who gives motivational lectures. He in turn takes Renee to Conrad Willard (Rus Blackwell), the director of a rehab center. Unfortunately, Conrad refuses to enroll Renee in treatment for at least five days. The two reasons he gives are that she needs to detoxify before they can assist her and she has to stop cutting herself—a long-term behavior he discovered during his interview with Renee. (Her self-harming is portrayed, sometimes with blood, numerous times through out the movie. There is also evidence on her arms of old scars and the glimpse of a fresh wound that spells out a sexual expletive.)
With no other alternatives, McKenna agrees to take Renee back to his house for the prerequisite withdrawal period. He also enlists Dylan and Jessie’s support with providing around-the-clock supervision, hiding all sharp objects, and buying snacks, cigarettes and coffee to substitute for drug cravings.
It is during this difficult time that Renee meets McKenna’s part-time flat mate Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael Murray). He feels an unusual curiosity about the young woman who has a passion for art and music. Seeing her efforts to overcome her demons as heroic and courageous, Jamie asks Renee if he can write and share her story. Little does either of them know how much their lives will change when she gives her permission.
Jamie Tworkowski’s account proved so compelling it inspired the movement To Write Love On Her Arms, a charitable group dedicated to assisting other lost souls find the help they need to overcome addictions and depression. It is also the text upon which this movie is based. And the two projects support each other because part of the film’s net proceeds will be donated to the TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS Non-Profit Organization.
Although the intent of this project is worthy, families considering watching it with their teens need to be aware that the production contains some disturbing content, such as self-mutilation with blood effects, detailed substance abuse and rape (implied but not shown). Scatological slang is frequently used, along with a few other profanities and a crude finger gesture. And characters contemplate revenge and engage in vandalism.
Yet at no time are these actions glamorized. Instead the movie presents a cautionary tale that provides a compassionate message for those with experiences similar to the main character. By adding artistic flourishes, computer imagery and popular songs to the telling of Renee Yohe’s life, the filmmakers have been able to creatively convey a sense of her internal turmoil. As well, the plot does not succumb to unrealistic happy endings. The struggle for sobriety is a path, not just a desired destination. Yet, while pain is real, so is hope. And there is no greater cause than to fight—and hope—for the chance of a better life.Directed by Nathan Frankowski . Starring Kat Dennings, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend, Corbin Bleu. Running time: 102 minutes. Updated March 12, 2015
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in To Write Love On Her Arms here.
To Write Love On Her Arms Parents Guide
What things contribute to Renee’s abuse of drugs? Why does she get drawn further and further into this world? What does it take to get her to reconsider the path she is on? Do you think her experiences are unique, or typical reasons why someone might get involved in drug use? What other things/people might she have turned to for help in overcoming her challenges?
How do Renee’s family and friends feel about helping her? How does Renee’s past behavior influence their willingness to assist her? Why do some of them believe in her desire for recovery more than others? Is it possible to tell when someone is really ready to make changes in their life?
What kind of pressure does Renee experience after she has completed her six months of rehabilitation? Why do you think Renee says the idea of a life of sobriety seems terrifying? Why might being clean seem more frightening than returning to using? If she were your friend, what advice would you give her?
What role does music play in Renee’s life? Is it positive or negative? How do the moviemakers use it to help us understand Renee’s inner feelings? How do they use art and computer-animation for the same purpose? Do you feel these techniques add or distract from her story?
What does McKenna mean when he says, “Secrets make you sick”? How is that true for Renee? How might it be true in your life?
What role does religion and faith play in this movie? How does the faith of Renee’s school friends help to motivate and empower them to reach out and assist?
NOTE: To Write Love on Her Arms was formerly titled One Day.
More About the Movie:
To Write Love on Her Arms is based on the true story of Reene Yohe.
The story behind this movie inspired To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a non-profit movement “dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide”.
From the Studio: Based on the inspiring, true story that started a global movement, TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS debuts on DVD and Digital HD March 3 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Canada. Kat Dennings (“2 Broke Girls”) stars as Renee Yohe, a young woman who battles drugs and depression, which ultimately leads her on a journey to discover the value of friendship. Inspired by Renee’s path to recovery, Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael Murray, “One Tree Hill”) shares her story which leads to his founding of the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms. “This is a film about broken people loving broken people,” says Jamie Tworkowski, TWLOHA Founder and Author of the original To Write Love on Her Arms story. “Our hope is that it inspires honest conversations and leads to folks fighting for the friends around them. Our dream is that people might get help and even choose to stay alive as this story continues to be told.” The film also stars Rupert Friend (“Homeland”), Juliana Harkavy (Dolphin Tale), Corbin Bleu (High School Musical) and Mark Saul (“Grey’s Anatomy”). In addition, TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS features incredible music from artists such as Travie McCoy, Paper Route, Rachael Yamagata, Dead Man’s Bones, Corbin Bleu, Between the Trees, Kye Kye, Flint Eastwood, Margolnick, Gatlin Elms, Duologue, Danny Leggett, Civilian, Alex Bennett and Bearcat (featuring Renee Yohe). An accompanying soundtrack album will be released by Madison Gate Records. - Sony Pictures