Romance is a genre of movie that is easy to get wrong. And it is not hard to tell why they get this wrong. They try to make romance about romance. War films are never about war alone; there is conflict. Crime, horror, comedy, all rely on something to run. But somehow, makers of romantic movies believe they can get away with making their films one-dimensional. Teen romances are even worse with their fake nostalgias, depressions, and fights – everything that would give the movie the semblance of originality is thrown into the pot. Our head of video rambled about Netflix in his pretext on the review of “To All The Boys. P.S. I Still Love You” – it is worth a look. “All The Bright Places” is Netflix, it is teen, it is romance, and it is refreshingly different.
“All The Bright Places” is adapted from the novel of Jennifer Niven who also worked on the screenplay with Liz Hannah. Bret Haley directed with Elle Fanning leading the crew of producers. The film stars Elle Fanning as the awkward, antisocial, depressive Violet Markey. If you can imagine Brienne of Taft of “Game of Thrones” without her armor and sword with glasses, that is Violet Markey in the early part of the film. She is seen standing on the edge of a bridge. Theodore Finch played by Justice Smith is running past and sees what looks like a suicidal pose. He manages to get Violet to come down by threatening to fall off the bridge himself. A friendship begins.
It turns out that Theodore Finch himself is not in a good place. He is what you can call unstable. He has missed school so much that he is now on probation. But he doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, not his counseling sessions, not himself. He throws everything he has, intellect, antics, quotes, and persistence to making Violet come out of her cold feet. She won’t go into a car, she won’t laugh, she won’t talk, she won’t enter the kitchen. Finch won the battle – Violet become a human being. They become lovers. And it was a fine thing to watch, the two love birds cycling brought back images of the character of Scarlett Johansson and her boy cycling in the town and trying to be happy in a time of war in “Jojo Rabbit”.
Finch won the outside battle but he lost the between within. Everyone sees him as a dangerous freak who can’t keep his cool. And not just that, he is one who has a burning tendency to disappear from time to time to a place where phone calls are not allowed and talking to loved ones is a taboo. He has the love of his life but his demons continually fight him, torment him, drag him on the ground, and finish him off.
The duality of man
Smith played two roles in the film “All The Bright Places”. On the one hand, he is a boy who genuinely cares about people and takes it as a duty to do this. A playful person, an organizer, a lover of quotes and Virginia Woolf, and a sweet brother. He is also a stranger, someone who doesn’t know himself, who doesn’t care about himself or what people think about him; someone who is ready and too willing to put all aside and go all violent. When he plays the first, you won’t know he is capable of playing the second character; when he is the second character, you wouldn’t recognize him as the first. He is completely two persons.
See also: Just Mercy movie review
Smith should be proud of the characters he played in all the bright places of this movie. His figure reminds me of many parents. Giving to their kids what they themselves cannot have, giving their kids life and losing theirs in the process. Violet’s presentation towards the end of the film is one of the most powerful things you would hear in a movie for a long time to come. It educated all of us and make us think of life with a new perspective.
We are all broken and we all need help most especially when we think we don’t.
All The Bright Places: Other asides
I remember “Hitch” the romantic comedy starring Will Smith in the titular role from 2005. Will Smith said that the producers specifically went for a Hispanic person in Eva Mendes as his love interest in order to offend white people by having a white woman loved and kissed by a black man even though it was make-believe. This was before Obama and progress must have been made. Justice Smith has now loved and kissed and forked* a white woman on set and it doesn’t seem like heaven would fall. Smith won where Smith couldn’t tread.
The title of this film can be taken to be literally with Indiana as the bright places. Before now, I have always seen Indiana as Vice President Mike Pence’s homeland. And since Pence is the good cop in the tag team where Trump unleashes his sadism on the country but in which Trump is not the most dangerous viper in the team, I expected Indiana to be a land full of hunters carrying guns all over the city center, with every woman dressed like a nun, and married men not leaving their home without their wives if alcohol is sold in this street and the next one. This film showed Indiana is not a bad place, not so much worse than what the movie suggested.
What can we learn from this film? How can we save the people who need saving but who cannot comprehend this urgent fact, doesn’t who doesn’t want to comprehend, who doesn’t even as much as make the effort? At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that this is a romantic movie and there are people who would argue that this is a documentary on broken people, a suicidal film. These people shouldn’t think of it this way. A movie is a romantic movie if it has romance in the middle. The fact that it broaches a major theme shouldn’t deny it what it is, it only makes it a rounder film.
I will rate this movie 7/10.
Image source: Hollywood Reporters