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Film Review: All the Bright Places

4 March 20 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

Teen angst eat your heart out - here comes another film that ticks all the boxes… 

Director: Brett Haley
Starring: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp
Running Time: 108 minutes

Sad, lonely girl with a tragic past? Tick. Misunderstood, outsider boy who sweeps her off her feet? Tick. A brief romantically inclined montage to convey the depth and feeling of their relationship in a matter of a couple of minutes? Tick. Supposedly tear-jerking moment that is designed to add further depth and brevity to the story? Sort of tick. Amount that the film actually moved me? Nada, niente, not a jot.

Based on the young adult novel of the same name, All the Bright Places attempts to tackle the drama and emotion laden story of two teens who find each other in the midst of their traumatic lives. Violet (Elle Fanning) has lost her sister in a serious car accident, turning her into a social ghost unable to enjoy hanging out with her friends, and left with a serious phobia of cars.  

Finch (Justice Smith) has been turned into a social pariah through a breakdown that he had last year, and has to contend with the innate cruelty of high school students who constantly remind him he “is a freak”. When Finch finds Violet standing on the side of the bridge where her sister died, he believes that she is suicidal and determines to try and save her by taking her around the countryside showing her the “wonders of Indiana” to prove to her that life can still be a good thing, and that there is still beauty in the world.  

Not enough weight is given to the way that the relationship develops or why they might care for each other so much

It’s not a bad premise, to be honest. There is potential there, but this half-baked depiction never really gets off the ground.  It’s hard to find empathy for Violet, even though her situation is totally understandable. Hardly any time is spent on the good parts of her personality, so that as an audience, you feel like you don’t really know who she is and why she might be worth rooting for.  

Finch is a more interesting character. His random behaviour and charm are enough to keep your interest peaked for the majority of the film, especially considering the mystery surrounding his past, and what might have happened to make him the way that he is. Once Violet and Finch do get together, there is enough chemistry there to make their relationship believable, but there is still an element lacking somewhere.  

The story moves quite quickly and not enough weight is given to the way that the relationship develops or why they might care for each other so much. Several times, certain events have a hollow ring to them. Somehow, I wouldn’t think it a good idea to put someone who had been through an horrific accident onto a rollercoaster and expect them to love it.  Or to consistently harass someone into agreeing to do a school project with them by following the person around, tagging them in very personal Instagram stories or by sleeping on their front lawn until they agreed to do what you wanted.  But maybe that’s just me.

All the Bright Places is on Netflix now

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