Formerly known as Renee or Day One, the movie To Write Love on Her Armstells the story of Renee Yohe, a nineteen-year-old with mental disorders, substance addiction, and cutting issues. Renee’s story seems hopeless, but as the real-life organization TWLOHA fights to prove, rescue is possible!
When her friends try to have Renee (Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls) admitted into a rehabilitation program, her prevalent drug use causes her to be prohibited. To get “clean,” Renee is hosted by a recovering addict named David McKenna (Rupert Friend), until she can be admitted. In a God-inspired collision of events, Jamie Tworkowski (Chad Michael Murray) returns to McKenna’s house at the same time, and the story of TWLOHA movement begins.
Today, TWLOHA sells t-shirts and runs fundraisers to advance awareness and care for those suffering from myriad issues, but cutting is where the name comes in. Rather than cutting to feed the addiction or feel good, supporters write the word “love” on their own arms, to show solidarity and understanding for those fighting the addiction. But before there was TWLOHA, there were five days in 2006, when Renee’s friends helped her get clean.
Director Nathan Frankowski (Expelled) plays with time, space, and memory as Renee trips on various drugs, and struggles to overcome her addictions. We see her flashbacks to her childhood and various flights of fantasy that exist within her tortured mind. By no fault of her own, a series of rapes drive her from her friends and further into her own illness and addiction. But this film, Renee’s story, proves that grace happens.
Ultimately, the story takes faith in action: courage on Renee’s part that she can overcome her addictions, the unbreakable bonds of friendship, and the boldness of Tworkowski in sharing the story. It’s Renee’s friends who care, who build the community in which she can be supported and healed. It’s Tworkowski who writes Renee’s story on Facebook before it goes viral, gains fans in sports, the music industry, and elsewhere.
The real-life nature of the story makes To Write Love on Her Arms chilling, to say the least, and it is certainly not for all audiences. But the film turns a critical eye on the way we think and act about mental illness. How many people suffer silently? How many drug addictions mask years of hurt and something much deeper? How many people know a person who cuts but don’t know how deep the cuts go? Renee’s story isn’t a straight trajectory because most stories aren’t: sin creeps in, it’s fought off by God’s grace, and we take it one day at a time.
Twloha.com states that “two-thirds of people with depression do not seek treatment… more than 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide…that 14-24 percent of youth and young adults have self-injured at least once.” This is an important movie for our society, our communities, even our families. For anyone out there questioning whether they matter or not, To Write Love on Her Arms boldly states: “your story doesn’t end here. You matter. Embrace hope.”