DVD Review: To Write Love on Her Arms

By , Contributor
To Write Love on Her Arms is an extremely well-intentioned movie starring Kat Dennings as a young woman struggling with depression, addiction, and self-harming. It’s based on the true story of Renee Yohe (Dennings) and her support group of friends, including Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael Murray). The real Tworkowski not only penned the book upon which director Nathan Frankowski’s book is based, but also founded the To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) non-profit organization. Since 2006, TWLOHA has been providing support services to those dealing with issues similar to what Renee went through.

Now on DVD and Digital HD from Sony, hopefully To Write Love on Her Arms will continue to help provide a beacon of hope for anyone struggling with mental health and addiction issues. As a narrative, the film leaves quite a bit to be desired. We get a glimpse into her early years (Isabella Iannuzzi plays the child Renee and Lindsey Riesen takes over as somewhat older Renee), which was marked by a very active fantasy life. The bulk of the story charts the five days prior to Renee entering rehab. Some nicely surreal visual elements, including Renee’s surroundings morphing into a real-life music video when she listens to her iPod, offer a contrast to the realism of Renee’s unhappiness.

It’s hard to be overly critical of a passion project that was obviously a labor of love for the real Yohe, Tworkowski, and others who served as consultants during production. However, it would’ve been nice to get a deeper portrait of Renee. As a character study, the film feels superficial. Unfortunately it lacks the forward momentum needed to draw in viewers who possibly don’t already have a vested interest in the subject matter. Concluding with a literal PSA seems to only emphasize the “after school special” atmosphere. Dennings gives it her all in a performance that is quite far removed from her best-known work (TV’s 2 Broke Girls, the Thor movies). The PG-13 rating is a blessing and a curse; it will allow younger viewers to more easily access the film, but it also meant toning down the more harrowing of Renee’s journey.

The DVD contains a generous amount of bonus material, including deleted scenes, featurettes, and character profiles. For more information about the To Write Love on Her Arms organization, visit the official website.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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