Title: All the Bright Places.
Director: Brett Harley.
Genre: Drama, Comedy, YA fiction, Coming of age.
Main Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp.
Runtime: 107 mins.
IMDb rating: 6.5/10.
My rating: 4/10.
Quick summary: Based on a YA novel, Violet Markey is plagued by the death of her older sister. Theodore has his own demons, yet the two embark on a tumultuous journey of love together. Trying to heal another broken soul is sometimes to the detriment of your own psyche.
I have a place in my heart for coming-of-age teenage dramas. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before all blend the comedy, loss, heartbreak and redemption that we really crave in a story. There’s a generally happy ending, if a little bittersweet in some cases, and genuine growth from the characters. They are all based on books, just like this fare written by Jennifer Niven. Unfortunately, while this strives to pack the emotional punch the others do, it both oversteps the mark and delivers, in my opinion, a harmful message on mental health.
Elle Fanning plays Violet Markey. She recently lost her sister in a car crash and is struggling herself. Enter Theodore (Justice Smith), a fellow struggler, who befriends Violet after finding her about to do something extremely serious. The two embark on a tumultuous relationship in which they open up to each other. Theodore is clearly suffering from some form of mental illness. He goes through the whole movie, which is too much of a slow burner, over-reacting to every imagined slight and going off the deep-end. When he eventually seeks help to try and find out what his diagnosis is, he disregards all advice, help and love thrown his way.
This is where I started to truly dislike the movie. As I said, it was already paced too slow. I felt that I was always waiting for it to get to the turning point of being a good movie. When it finally upped the pace it was far too close to the end and everything felt rushed. Even though there were some scenes that were acted out well and developed the storyline, the story telling itself was so slow and drawn out that it hampered the quality of the actors. Or, at least to my eye it did.
Theodore, when finally confronted with the full extent of his actions, takes the fatal decision to end it all. He does go and try talk to his sister but pulls back from her offer of help. He tells his girlfriend to lave him alone and goes off on his own.
Now, I have never been so low that I have driven all close to me away, and I don’t claim to know what is going on in someone’s head when they suffer from something like bipolar disorder, but I think that the movie could give a harmful message to an impressionable audience.
It could be construed that, according to the movie, when the chips are down and it all seems hopeless, it is easier to give in to the bad urges. Theodore meets a girl from school at his meeting, who tells him that the meetins are ‘slightly better than the alternative’. If a young person who suffered from a similar illness and watched this movie, they would be forgiven for thinking that the easy option is just that: Easy.
The ending almost pushed me over the edge. Violet Markey gives a stirring eulogy full of platitudes about Theodore in her Geography report. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Theodore was rightly being celebrated in death, but it felt like he was after martyring himself so Violet could come out of her own shell.
I hold no illusions of grandeur when it comes to my paltry following on this site. I am grateful for the views and the likes and the medium to self-publish my work. If any of you have young people in your lives, do not show them this movie. If they do see it, have a conversation with them about mental health and illness, and talk to them about the importance of talking and patience. The easiest solution is the most damaging in the long run. We’ve all experienced suicide and death in some shape or form. Also, if you yourself are struggling in these unprecedented times, there’s a comment box somewhere on this page (I’m not great at the IT side of things) and I am always available to talk.