Daryn (Jaden Smith) isn’t even a senior in high school yet but he’s got his whole life laid out in front of him, a series of goals and how to achieve them. Or rather his dad does. His dad Xavier (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a full-time dick so intent on -seeing his son accepted into Harvard that he doesn’t mind completely destroying their relationship to get it. To Xavier, Daryn’s new girlfriend Isabelle (Cara Delevingne) is nothing more than a distraction, and he’s super rude and dismissive of her accordingly.
What Daryn’s parents don’t know is that Isabelle is a rapidly dying teenage girl, and in the great cinematic tradition of dead and dying teenagers, Daryn has resolved to give her a whole life’s worth of milestones in the single year she has left. Basically, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all; the dying teenage trope isn’t exactly original and Life In A Year isn’t exactly up to redefining the genre. Just look at that title: it’s 2/10 awful, it sounds wrong, it’s thematically meaningless, and it fails to distinguish itself from close relatives (a simple Google search confuses it with All My Life, A Year In My Life, The Worst Years of My Life, Life Itself, and more).
I never imagined I’d say this, but Jaden Smith isn’t the problem with this movie, and he’s the least problematic man among the cast. He’s mostly known for being the entitled son of Will Smith who can’t stop mistaking ignorant bullshit for poetry and philosophy. In this, he does a pretty good imitation of a decent human being, and in his best moments he briefly channels his more famous and talented father. Cara Delevingne isn’t the problem either. I’m never bowled over by her, but there’s probably not an actor in the world who could salvage this terrible material. Confusingly, director Mitja Okorn almost seems hell-bent on tanking this thing, or at least that’s what’s communicated when a film offers you two cancelled perverts for the price of one. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is of course currently on trial for forcible touching and of sex abuse to the third degree; at last count 30 women had accused him of groping. Disgraced comedian Chris D’Elia stands accused of grooming young girls and attempting to solicit nude photographs from minors. He’s also been accused of sexual misconduct by grown women, alleging that he exposes himself randomly and masturbates in front of them without consent. Mitja Okorn is the guy who said: yes, please, I’d like to work with both. Grade A stuff.
But this movie doesn’t need perverts to dissuade you, it’d be bad either way. It’s formulaic and poorly written and the characters are bizarrely one-dimensional (Daryn has a friend whose single personality trait is that he used to be fat. He isn’t even fat anymore!) or just don’t make any sense at all (D’Elia plays a “drag queen” named Phil who, though we never see him perform, is always in drag – has the script confused profession with identity?). No matter how you slice or dice it, Life In A Year (ugh, terrible title, still not over it) is a failure and there’s not a soul in the world who needs to see it.