All the Bright Places (2020)
Director: Brett Haley
Writers: Jennifer Niven and Liz Hannah
Starring: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kelli O’Hara, Lamar Johnson, Virginia Gardner, Felix Mallard, Sofia Hasmik, Keegan-Michael Key, and Luke Wilson
Plot: Two teens with mental illness fall in love while working on a group project together.
Review: At the beginning of All the Bright Places, our main character is asked how he’s doing. He responds with “Oh, you know. Typical teenage melodrama.” That’s it. That basically sums up my opinions on the movie. End of review. Nah. I’m just kidding. I’ve got more to say. But… not a whole lot to be honest. That does about sum it up.
Honestly, the biggest problem with All the Bright Places is how freaking boring it is. 75% of this movie is just people talking. And they’re not particularly interesting people either. They’re just your average “quirky, weird, mature for their age” teenagers that seem to appear in most young adult novels. No one gets them. They’re different. Yawn. I criticized To All the Boys a few weeks ago for being melodramatic but at least that one had interesting characters. These are dull. And that makes the whole movie dull. It may sound a bit harsh but this movie has a very sad ending and I felt nothing. I had zero attachments to these characters so I couldn’t really feel upset when things went south for them.
Also, I feel like All the Bright Places has a lot of the same problems many Netflix based teen shows have. They’re glorifying mental illness and self harm. I think their heart is in the right place, but, every time they shine a light on this topic, it just feels wrong. I can’t even quite put my finger on it. Stuff like this would just makes me uncomfortable. And it’s not the topic itself. I think you can and should approach touchy subjects like this, especially when teens are involved. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my favorite teen movies and really dives into teenage depression hard. It’s just done artfully and with a skilled hand. From what I’ve seen, Netflix hasn’t reached that level yet.
Honestly though, I didn’t hate All the Bright Places. It was fine. The two leads tried their hardest to breathe life into these flat characters. They obviously have good chemistry. The scenes where they got to have fun were cute. I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to stand out when I think back on it. I’ll probably forget 98% of it within a month, but that means it’s not leaving any scars either. It’s just one of those movies that’s fine when it’s playing, then you think “well, actually, that wasn’t very good” when it wraps, then you forget about. Hey! It’s your typical Netflix movie! Look at that!
Am I too mean to Netflix? Probably… They should make better movies though.
TL;DR: All the Bright Places is boring and borderline problematic, but, with the help of Smith and Fanning, it’s not the worst way to kill two hours.
Score: 5/10 (Meh.)