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Film / Instructions Not Included

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Instructions Not Included is a 2013 Mexican comedy-drama film that was co-written, directed by, and starring Eugenio Derbez. It was released on August 30, 2013.

Derbez plays Valentin, a seemingly fearless playboy living in Acapulco who encounters a former fling who leaves him with a child whom she claims is his daughter. While trying to give the baby back to her mother, Valentin ends up going to Los Angeles, becomes a Hollywood stuntman, and spends the next six years raising the child while not fully grasping the concept of fatherhood.

This film includes examples of:

  • An Aesop: The film's Tag Line itself. Sometimes you end up with responsibilities you don't feel ready for, but that's life, and it's best to accept it and do what's right, also because if you do, the sacrifices will be worth it, while if you refuse, you may regret it forever. Both of Maggie's parents felt unfit to raise her when she was born, but their different choices led them to experience these two realities.
    • Valentin found himself with a baby to take care of when he barely knew how to take care of himself. However, after some hesitation, he accepted it and raised Maggie as best he could and this allowed him to grow as well. In the end, not even the pain of losing her is enough to erase the wonderful memories of their life together, and this will allow him to go on with his life.
    • Julie decided that she was not ready to be a mother, so she left Maggie and returned only when she had decided she was ready to make up for lost time (i.e., after getting her life together AND finishing her studies, completed thanks in part to not having to care for the child). In doing so, however, she missed the early years of her daughter's life and then, even worse, it turned out that Maggie would die shortly after Julie's return, so the years with which she intended to make up for lost time would never come.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: A few people voice their concerns about Valentin being a single parent of a young child and having an extremely dangerous job. If he were to have died on the job, there would not have been anyone else to take care of his daughter since he had no family in the country. He quits his job as a stuntman to keep Maggie.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Valentin is hinted to have some sort of illness, with only a short time left to live. It's later revealed that Maggie is the one who is ill, though she has no idea.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Renee, Julie's girlfriend. She started off very kind when she first meets Valentin, but gradually becomes rather arrogant and crude to him when Julie attempts to take custody of Maggie. She evenly bluntly comments on how Valentin isn't the father after he wins the court case. It really goes hand to hand near the end when she and Julie try to get Frank to reveal where Valentin took Maggie to, and Renee pulls the racist card, insulting Valentin for being Mexican. She softens up when she finds out that Maggie has a terminal illness.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Maggie dies from an illness, but she lived out her dream of jumping off the cliff into the ocean with Valentin. Valentin himself has grown as a person thanks to Maggie.
  • Brick Joke: Maggie tells the landlord about their neighbor who keeps asking Valentin to help unclog her drain and the landlord takes it at face value, charging Valentin for the damage after the landlord takes apart the pipes and finds there is no problem with them.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the beginning of the movie, Julie asks for money to go pay the cab driver, but doesn't come back. Years later, she doesn't have money for a cab and asks Valentin to lend her some again. There is Lampshade Hanging.
    • Valentin kept forgetting Maggie's name and someone else mentions her name sounds like the name of a food. When she is about to crawl into the pool, he still forgets and tries to call out her name, instead shouting random names of foods until he remembers.
    • In spanish, he remembers she has the name of a brand of sauce, so Valentín starts shouting random sauce brands.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Maggie is furious when she finds out Valentin has been lying to her about her mother the whole time and yells at him.
  • Career Versus Family: Julie leaves Maggie with Valentin to study law in New York.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • When Maggie tells Valentin that she is being told by her classmates that her mom is like Santa Claus, he thinks she means it literally. Maggie corrects him, though, that it's actually because she's never seen her before.
    • Valentin and Maggie also don't get the neighbor's request to "fix her clog", clearly a discreet way to invite him for sex anytime he wants. More justified with Maggie because she's a kid.
  • Children Raise You: Maggie for Valentin.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Valentin writes letters to Maggie, pretending that they are from her mother with excuses as to why she is away. He also uses the one photo he has of Julie to edit her image into other photos and tells her that they are divorced. When Maggie kept asking about her mother, he decided to hire an actress to play Julie, though wasn't able to go through with the plan. When asked why he lied, he says he couldn't bear to tell Maggie that her mother didn't love her enough to stick around.
  • Daddy DNA Test: Shortly after Valentin wins full custody of Maggie, however, his victory is cut-short when Julie comes up with this strategy, proving that Valentin isn't the father after all.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Maggie.
  • Dramedy
  • Exact Words: Julie says that she wants Maggie to meet "someone". Maggie and Valentin are surprised to see that Julie's partner is a woman.
  • Flashback: Some scenes of Valentin's childhood are shown.
  • Foreshadow: Although most of the clues at first suggest that Valentin has a terminal illness, there is one occasion when it is implied that it is Maggie who is the one with health problems, because during Julie's first visit to Valentin and Maggie, the woman notices that when her daughter falls asleep, she does so rather quickly, seeming to literally shut down.
  • Get Out!: Maggie, when Valentin tries to apologize to her after she finds out the truth about the letters.
  • Girl Posse: The group of girls that bully Maggie for being "weird".
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Valentin gains a neater appearance, including a shorter haircut, after the time skip.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Valentin and Julie had a fling and ended up with a child neither of them wanted.
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: Valentin was revealed not to be Maggie's biological father, which allowed Julie to get custody.
  • Missing Mom: Maggie's mother abandons her as an infant, but comes back seven years later.
  • Motif: The wolf that Valentin sees every time he gets scared.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Though it isn't revealed to anyone until the Daddy DNA Test near the end.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Valentin, who is afraid of heights, jumped down 10 stories to save his daughter. When her mother comes back, he is critical of her and protective of Maggie, who he doesn't want to get hurt.
    • There is also a scene in which Maggie lies to a director, saying that Valentin agreed to jump at a greater height that was originally agreed upon so that he could show off in front of Julie and Renee. When the director finds out about it and starts yelling at Maggie, Valentin says there was just a misunderstanding and agrees to go with it so the director would stop.
  • Parents as People: Valentin had a falling out with his father and never reconciled with his father before his death because he didn't agree with the way he raised him. It isn't until he had to raise his own child that he learned to understand his father's mistakes. Valentin himself, as he gets criticized for some of the things he does when raising Maggie, but it's obvious how much he cares for her and that is trying his best. He commits to making changes such as taking a less dangerous job and learning English.
  • Parent with New Paramour: When Maggi learns that Julie is in a relationship, she doesn't want to meet her (though she initially assumed it was a man) and bragged that her father was better. When she met Renee, she didn't seem to like her and tries to get Valentin to show off.
  • The Reveal:
    • It appears as though it's Valentin who has a terminal disease, when it was really Maggie.
    • Additionally, Valentin is not Maggie's biological father.
  • Rule of Pool: Maggie crawls into a hotel pool and Valentin jumps in to save her.
  • Running Gag:
    • The sexy neighbor who keeps inviting Valentin to "fix her drain".
    • The senile landlord who keeps reminding Valentin to pay the elevator maintenance bill (which he does multiple times).
  • Really Gets Around: Valentin in the beginning of the movie. It's implied Julie as well, since Valentin caught an STD from her. It foreshadows Valentin not being Maggie's biological father.
  • Secret-Keeper: Frank.
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • Valentin (Sloth) who doesn't work for a living, initially, and is afraid of commitment. No wonder why he rejected one of the women who didn't see him just as a summer fling.
    • Jackie (Lust), Valentin's sexy neighbor, uses the "fix the drain" euphemism as an excuse to see him.
    • Renee (Pride/Wrath), Julie's girlfriend, for belittling Valetin's abilities to be a fit father for Maggie and behaves racist because he's Mexican, later yells at Frank while demanding his and Maggie's whereabouts.
    • The senile landlord (Greed) of the apartment often pressures Valentin into paying the elevator maintenance bill.
    • Julie (Envy) can hardly contain her jealousy over Maggie favoring Valentin over her despite the fact that it was her who left her under his care when she was too young to raise a child.
  • Film Within a Film: The Aztec Man series, which stars Johnny Depp with Valentin as his Stunt Double.
  • Shout-Out: Valentin's father is named Juan Bravo, but was known as "Johnny Bravo". He even tells Maggie a story about Johnny Bravo as though he's a legend, using a toy of said character as a visual stand-in.
  • STD Immunity: Averted. Valentin remembers Julie having left him with a "gift".
  • Stunt Double: In-Universe example. Valentin was offered this job after a director saw him jump into a pool from a balcony 10 stories high.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Maggie gets the whole Death by Newbery Medal treatment, even passing away in a spot in Acapulco with a marvelous sight of the ocean while held in Valentin's arms.
  • Translator Buddy: Maggie translates for Valentin whenever he speaks to someone who only speaks English.
  • Wham Line:
    • Frank keeps telling Valentin to tell "the truth", which is that he fears that every day with this daughter will be his last, as she is suffering from a terminal condition.
    • The Reveal that Julie requested a paternity test, which showed that Valentin was not Maggie's biological father.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: We never do see what happened to Renee after she and Julie find out the truth about Maggie having an illness. We can assume they broke up, especially after Renee pulled the racist card on Valentin.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Valentin to Julie for abandoning Maggie.