Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: David Marshall Grant, Dan Savage
Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Bill Irwin, Antoni Porowski, Nikki M. James
Released: February 9, 2023
Grade: B+

Spoiler Alert

In February 2015, 41-year-old American photographer Kit Cowan died after an 11-month battle with Neuroendocrine cancer.  Just prior to his passing, he made a gut-wrenching comment to his best friend, Jen, which she’s never forgotten – “please don’t forget me.”  She relayed that comment to Kit’s partner of 14 years, Michael Ausiello, who was equally devastated.

That moment, coupled with the suggestion of a book editor not longer after, helped serve as motivation for Michael to write a memoir about Kit and their time together.  It was published in 2018 and, not long after, the film rights were snapped up by Focus Features.  Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) would star and produce while Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) would direct.

Spoiler Alert is a film of two tonally different halves.  The first hour is a quirky rom-com about two guys who fall in love in the late 1990s.  Michael is a self-described “hopeless romantic” who works for TV Guide and developed a love for television after watching soapies with his mum.  He’s a little shy, a little nerdish, and little unusual (particularly when it comes to interior design at home).  It’s at a gay nightclub where he meets Kit, a handsome man working as an advertising guru for local restaurants.  The film delves into their introduction, first date, and early hook-ups.

The second hour takes us forward roughly 14 years and we learn from a dinner party that their relationship has been through a few rocky ups and downs.  It’s at this point where Kit visits the doctor, discovers a growth in his rectum, and is diagnosed with a stage 4 cancerous tumour.  As you’d expect, the film’s atmosphere is much more dramatic by this point.  Knowing you only have a few months left to live can provide an unexpected clarity.  Michael and Kit forget about previous squabbles and the focus is on maximising their remaining time together.

It’s not telling us anything new… but Spoiler Alert is still a sweet, heartfelt movie.  It devotes ample time towards character development in the early stages and, given we now have an affection for the two protagonists, this helps create a genuine emotional response in the later stages.  The screenplay of David Marshall Grant and Dan Savage doesn’t shy away from the brutality of cancer.  The most affecting scene in the film is one where Michael visits Kit one final time in hospital knowing he has just hours left to live.  It’s hard not to be moved.

Yes, it’s slightly Hollywood-ised (as you’d expect) but Spoiler Alert will help ensure the life of Kit Cowan is not soon forgotten.  It’s also a nice reminder that when it comes to tragedy and dealing with grief, we’re far from alone.