As a huge fan of the book "All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven, watching the movie was a terrible lucid dream. A rom-com, set in an unnamed city in Indiana brings to life the book in it's worst possible form. You would think it would be better considering that Niven herself was one of the co-writers of the movie.
"All the Bright Places" stars Elle Fanning and Justice Smith as Violet Markey and Theodore Finch, high school classmates-turned-lovers navigating mental illness, grief and childhood trauma, all within the terribly directed 1 hour and 48 minutes. Though the themes they aimed at are of importance, the lack of a substantial storyline negates those very themes.
Violet (Elle Fanning) is nurtured and courted by the even more broken Finch (Justice Smith). One has lost her sister in a car accident, and the other is recovering from an abusive childhood.
The film opens with Violet perched on the brink of a bridge ready to take the leap. From this sombre beginning, the film fails to build a plausible relationship between two broken youngsters mainly because I saw no chemistry between Fanning and Smith. It looked like they were forced to be together and there was a man holding a gun to their head every time they had "moments."
Rushed and inconsistent pacing makes the movie seem like it’s hyper-aware of the fact that it’s based on a book, cutting through character development for the sake of getting to the meat of the story. It assumes that the audience has read the book and just wants to see the highlights now - or at least that's what it feels like.
It’s aggravating to see such important themes butchered so mercilessly in a film, as even the intricacies of Theodore’s undiagnosed mental illness are not explored. This further prevents the audience from connecting fully with any character.
I remember putting down the book and crying for a good fifteen minutes when Finch passed away. In the movie, however, the loss of an important character feels less like loss and more like an intricate set up to make you cry forcefully. The connection with the characters is so little - death feels like nothing.
Even in the final scene, which features Fanning giving a supposedly "moving" speech to her classmates, lacks any inflection in her voice which makes even the finale fall flat on its face. By the time the inevitable tragedy occurred, I had no interest in these two heartbroken souls because the screenplay was more lost than it could ever be.
On the plus side, Smith is very likeable as a character and actor - even though Finch is broken and hurt - there's something positive about him. That's the one similarity to the book that the director got right.
But apart from this, the movie simply just fails to impress or stay memorable. Although set with a promising premise, “All the Bright Places” falls short of creating anything worthwhile.