BOTTOM LINE: An Unlikely Romance Between Two Troubled Teens
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
A sleepy town in Indiana (US) is home to the film’s protagonists Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, the two troubled teenagers who haven’t come to terms with what life has offered them. Incidentally, they meet while planning to end their life by jumping off a ledge near the school premises.
Violet feels responsible for the death of her elder sister in a car crash and Finch (labeled a freak by those around him) beyond his abusive childhood, is yet to decode the reason behind his intermittent violent emotional outbursts. In an unlikely romance, the two try to heal each other’s emotional wounds, but one of them has just gone a little too far to return to normalcy.
Given the world of the story predominantly revolves around two characters, it’s mostly the lead actors who get a scope to shine. Justice Smith’s casting is particularly effective as Finch – he genuinely makes you believe that there’s an unknown side to the character he plays. He’s effective in portraying a boy who masks his emotional scars with his enthusiasm ( a side that’s largely explored when he’s with Violet) and as someone who can’t justify his supposed ‘freakish’ behaviour.
Elle Fanning plays her part well, but wish she could have submitted herself to the character with as much earnestness as her male counterpart. The transformation of the character would have been doubly effective with better intensity to her act. Alexandra Shipp, Lamar Johnson, Keegan-Michael Key and Felix Mallard prove to be a handful in the brief parts they get.
All the Bright Places is a story that functions like therapy for the wounded soul. Another addition to the list of many book adaptations by Netflix, it makes a sincere attempt to understand the world of two troubled teenagers at different junctures in life. It’s a plea to come out of your shell and smell the coffee, savour little pleasures while being sensitive to one another’s concerns. While it’s premise may remind one of The Fault in Our Stars (two strangers meeting at a time of emotional crisis), there’s a free-spiritedness to All the Bright Places you can’t ignore.
Finch looks upon Violet as a kindred spirit of sorts – both have gone through uncomfortable experiences in life and they literally ‘get’ each other (at least, what they presume). The former proves instrumental in helping Violet rediscover her zest for life through a school project. With the excuse of submitting a report on two geographically unique locations in the State, the two bond like there’s no tomorrow. The narrative for a major part focuses on their budding romance and the coming-of-age phase of Violet, at the cost of ignoring Finch’s issues.
Though the film offers you a fair picture of what Finch is going through, the hints are too subtle – like the session he has with a counsellor, the sudden disappearance from school for weeks and a few vague conversations with his sister. It may have been a creative choice to discuss Finch’s issues in the later part of the narrative and make his world a ‘mystery’. The filmmaker Brett Haley doesn’t try to underline if he’s going through bipolar and even if that was hereditary (one wished the film could have attempted to clearly spell out if Finch’s abusive father was bipolar too).
The beauty of All the Bright Places lies in the healing touch to the romance of the protagonists. The storyteller is a fan of underplaying the proceedings and leaving certain aspects to the interpretation of the viewer. There’s a lightness in the filmmaking (that sometimes doesn’t do justice to what the protagonists are going through).
The ending doesn’t try to leave you moist-eyed or overwhelmed. It just tries to remain hopeful, empathetic and takes note of the fact that no one can understand what the other is going through. All the Bright Places is a reasonable watch, but the makers could have done more to make the viewer invest emotionally with its characters. The unidimensional tone is sometimes a deterrent too.
Music and Other Departments?
The background score, staying true to the sensitivity of the subject, is gentle on the ears and exudes the right amount of spirit and liveliness in the need of the hour. The cinematographer makes good use of a road narrative to convey the ‘journey’ of its protagonists through the many cycle rides, walks and car drives. The film may have missed the detailing of the book, but is more or less faithful to its essence and universe.
It’s interpretative quality
Not exploring Finch’s concerns as well as Violet’s
The tepid start
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Not everyone’s cup of tea
Review by Srivathsan Naddadhur
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