Young adult fiction seems to fall in two categories: either teenagers fighting for their lives in a dystopian land or having tragedy befall their love.
Adapting the latter to the screen can be tricky. You can end up with an overly dramatic, unrealistic story. And if the leads don't work, that film can be a chore.
Netflix's "All the Bright Places" doesn't fall prey to romantic movie stereotypes. Instead, it's a breath of fresh air and a movie that shows a more realistic teenage experience.
The movie, based on the 2015 Jennifer Niven novel of the same name, focuses on Violet and Theodore. We meet the pair within the first seconds of the movie. Violet (Elle Fanning) is standing on a bridge's ledge. Theodore (Justice Smith) is running past and talk's Violet down.
Theodore learns that Violet's sister died in a car crash on that same bridge. To help her process her grief, Theodore offers to be Violet's partner in a class project where they explore some of Indiana's hidden secrets.
"All the Bright Places" works because of the chemistry between Fanning and Smith. The other supporting characters have little to do and relatively no impact on the story, in what is the biggest flaw of the film.
But when Fanning and Smith are together, there's not a more electric couple that I've seen portrayed in a long while. They compliment each other so well, building each other up and showing that love can heal some wounds.
Personally, I've struggled with young adult fiction. It's never felt like it was for me, so to speak. I've always found it difficult to identify with the characters. But in "All the Bright Places," I felt like I shared in their tendencies.
Teenagers in movies have often been portrayed in their most naive sense. They usually don't get much screen time, unless they're a part of some raunchy comedy or John Hughes movie. Typically, teenage problems are considered minimal and that some day they'll grow out of their issues.
"All the Bright Places" focuses on the complicated, 21st century lives of teenagers and everything they deal with. It takes mental health and trauma head on and doesn't shy away. Violet and Theodore have more vulnerable, honest conversations than 90% of the adults I know.
And while a movie like this may feel like you can predict a tragic conclusion -- it does -- it has it's fair share of charming moments. I could watch a five-hour movie of Violet and Theodore traveling the Indiana countryside on a loop. If I need a pick me up, the moments they share will bring some light in.
One piece of advice: don't Google anything about this film. It will be spoiled for you within seconds. Go in fresh, enjoy the ride, and get lost with Fanning and Smith.
Matthew Lambert has written for RiverTown Multimedia for almost three years. Prior to joining the company, Lambert graduated from Winona State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication: Journalism and a minor in Film Studies. Lambert will try any film once, but if he had his choice a Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson film would be his choice.