By: Amanda Guarragi
All the Bright Places is a film that is adapted from the popular novel, written by Jennifer Niven. We have had our fill of young adult novels and majority of the adaptations have been quite generic, so if one stands out, then it’s a good thing. As Netflix continues to add to their original content, some coming of age films get lost in their library, All the Bright Places feels like it will toe the line of being memorable.
Niven wanted to take a look inside the mind of two teenagers who suffer from various mental illnesses. When we meet young Theodore Finch, played by Justice Smith, he is taking a jog down an open road, with his music blaring in his headphones. He slowly comes to a stop, as he sees this young blonde named Violet Markey, played by Elle Fanning, standing on the ledge of a bridge.
The beauty of this film is that help can be found, even in the darkest of times. If someone is shining a light and reaching out to you, it’s always a sign of hope. We as humans are conditioned to need affection, reassurance, friendship and genuine connectivity in order to function. Humans can sometimes get lost in their own mind and doubt themselves. They even doubt the connection they have with the people around them and then isolate themselves. It’s through this isolation that any mental illness can affect your thought process, emotions or your physical well-being. There are always people around you that will remind you, that you are not alone, ever and they will make sure to distract you, by making memories along the way. Sure, you remember the bad times, the really dark times but there was always a light, a simple distraction, that will attempt to cancel out the bad.
“We do not remember days, we remember moments” – Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places
The writing is very honest and realistic, until the cheesy dialogue swoops in and reminds us that it’s also a romance. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith were cute together and had a solid chemistry but at the same time, their levels never really matched. For half the film, Violet (Fanning) was grieving and Finch (Smith), was there by her side, doing his utmost to make her smile. Then in the second half, when the roles were somehow reversed and Finch was suffering from his own traumatic past, he was sporadic and the energy wasn’t matched. One character was more developed than the other, we see more of Violet and how she came to terms with the loss of her sister. Niven never really developed Finch at all and it was really hard to understand his journey, without an explanation.
I commend Niven and the entire crew for raising awareness for this subject matter because these conversations truly need to be had. It is hard to write about mental illnesses and attempt to deliver it in a way that is balanced enough, that it educates and also makes an impact on audiences. All the Bright Places had great discussions but the story, as a whole, was not developed enough for the screen.