Instructions Not Included is a drama/comedy (or dramedy for short) that was released in 2013 and is directed by Eugenio Derbez, being his first feature length movie. It stars Eugenio Derbez as our main lead named Valentín, with Loreto Peralta as the daughter named Maggie and Jessica Lindsey as the biological mother named Julie. Instructions Not Included is the story of Valentín being given a child from a past lover, Julie, as she runs away to the US. Valentín then goes across the border to the US in order to return the baby to her but ultimately fails in doing so, being forced to take care of this child and build a relationship with her. That’s the first 15 minutes or so, the rest of the movie continues from there into something different, that would be getting into spoiler territory.
Instructions Not Included is mostly spoken in Spanish, but also holds a number of English lines as well. A lot more of the English lines come through once Valentín crosses the border with child. You will need subtitles for this one. There is a lot of the important dialogue spilled through the Spanish segments. The reason I watched this movie was because of homework for Spanish class. I had to pick a movie primarily spoken in Spanish that deals with more of the Spanish culture. And I have to say, I’m glad that I spent time watching this movie. Instructions Not Included is all over the place, kinda crazy, unbelievable, but sweet, charming and adorable all at the same time. It’s kind of a weird balance, but it’s an endearing one.
The movie opens with Valentín sleeping with a number of women, showing us what kind of lifestyle he lives after separating from his father, who played a very important role early on in his life, something that is brought up a multitude of times in this film. Valentín in this movie has a lot of fears and insecurities with his character. And the opening segments of the movie (before the scenes I mentioned) show his father trying to get Valentín to conquer his fears. And I think these insecurities really work for his character, and for the story. There are a lot of things he is afraid of, but this character never really feels stagnant. He may not be constantly conquering his fears, but he faces them many times and is pulled outside of his comfort zone a lot. Maybe it feels a little contrived, but it’s a good contrivance. It’s something the audience can learn from, and there is a lot here to learn with this broken character. It was interesting to see and I can honestly say that I liked him a lot here in this movie.
For me, the role that stole the show would have to be Maggie, the daughter (played by Loreto Peralta). She does a phenomenal job in this movie, but not only that she is very adorable and pulls at your heartstrings. For the opening act of this movie it’s all on Valentín, but once we reach the second act and she enters the picture, we get to see the relationship between Maggie and Valentín and it’s a very interesting and sweet relationship. Valentín has grown to love this kid over the six years of being together that he spoils the crap out of her, which causes her to have some psychological issues since she essentially lives in a fantasy world. And because of that she is bullied at school a lot and made fun of because her mind isn’t grasping reality like it should. I found that dynamic to be very, very interesting and handled pretty well for the most part. I would have liked the movie to spend more time here, but that’s not what this movie is here for. There could so easily be a movie made off of just that issue, one kind of like the movie Room, but again, that’s not what this movie is here for.
Being an independent film, Instructions Not Included does show its budget at times. There are times when the camera is out of focus, on a shot. It’s not framed the best. The colors feel a bit over-saturated, some of the implemented CGI is very noticeable. When the green screen is used, you can tell. But it’s never really anything that completely takes away from the movie. If you’re really into that stuff, then you will notice it. But it’s all few and far between that it’s not too big of a deal.
This movie also touches on a lot of subjects, but I never felt like it went overboard since the movie itself is already all over the place to start with. There’s a lot to this movie. It deals with conquering fears, love, responsibility of a child, lying, divorced parents, selfishness, family, and that’s just what’s on the surface. Like I said, there is a lot of subject this movie touches on underneath the overlying storyline. I do feel like there are maybe too many of them, some may could have easily been removed and wouldn’t have impacted the story in a heavy way. But having a lot of topics to use, the movie never felt like it dragged. It always felt fresh.
Being that it deals with a lot of subject matters, it does create some pacing problems. There will be times when it will feel choppy when moving from scene to scene and subject to subject. This becomes very evident when we reach the second half, that was when I felt this was at its worst. And, as I had mentioned earlier, this movie is pretty crazy. And it goes nuts towards the end, to a point where it felt like the movie didn’t know what else to do so it started making things up to lengthen the runtime. Especially the ending scene of this movie has something that was briefly mentioned before but never touched on every again. And seeing it come to fruition didn’t make a whole lot of sense and out of left field. There are things that feel very over-the-top and unbelievable, but they are things that sometimes play a very important part to the story.
Having to point out the flaws in this movie almost feels wrong to me. This is a very sweet and harmless movie. One that tries very hard to teach its audience something different with a crazy story and its crazy characters, without shoving the lesson down your throat. It does have some pretty big flaws and does get awkward at times with some cliché humor and situations with some pretty bad pacing issues. But the subjects it touches on, the conflicts that are presented, and the dialogue between the characters as well as Maggie being so adorable lets me look past a lot of its flaws to really enjoy this film. There is a passion to this movie a very evident passion. This is not a perfect movie, but the dedication by the director and its actors and the themes it touches on make this a very enjoyable experience. This is a feel-good movie, one that that gives you that warm and fuzzy inside feeling. This one goes through a lot, so you need to be prepared for the movie to switch tones on a dime. This is a good movie, despite the obvious flaws. A movie doesn’t have to be perfect for me to enjoy it. It’s the passion put into this film that makes it a good experience. I’m giving this one a 7/10 stars with a pretty high recommend.