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Review: ‘All the Bright Places’ – In All the Dark Ones

Elle Fanning and Justice Smith in the movie “All the Bright Places.”(Walter Thomson / Netflix)

Recently, Netflix has been the lead producer of turning well-loved young adult novels into movies. From “The Kissing Booth” in 2018 to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Parts 1 and 2 in 2019 and 2020, Netflix has another teen-angst-styled film in its New-Releases section: “All the Bright Places.”

Based on Jennifer Niven’s original novel published half a decade ago in 2015, “All the Bright Places” centers around two main characters: Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. When the novel opens, fate brings this quirky duo together at a vulnerable place and time.

They meet on the edge of life and death, and it is unclear who saves who, as both have the idea of jumping off the school’s bell tower. Violet has forgotten how to live. Theodore has forgotten how to stay awake. Together, the two pair up for a school project. They travel to whimsical lakes and self-made roller coasters, but as one takes a step closer to the light, the other retreats further into darkness.

Starring actress Elle Fanning as Violet Markey and actor Justice Smith as Theodore Finch, the movie touches upon sensitive topics regarding mental illnesses, sprinkled with an aura of a budding love only found in high-school relationships. Each character struggles with an angst-filled past; each character struggles with a hold on life. 

Unlike the novel, the film opens with the two characters meeting at the edge of a bridge rather than a bell tower. Alterations like such would usually trigger Niven’s loyal audience. But, we must take into consideration that the book always includes details the movie may never touch upon. The book will always be slightly better.

Yet, director Brett Haley has managed to carefully film a novel based on its best parts. Minuscule changes like such are out-shined by the inspiring portrayal of Violet and Theodore’s relationship. Fanning and Smith perform an unbelievable job of depicting teenage depression, raging emotions and most importantly, recovery and growth. 

In a generation where mental disorders are at an all-time high, one in five teenagers are victims. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people age 15 to 24, according to a poll done by New Jersey State Health Assessment Data.

Many might accuse this film of romanticizing a serious issue. But no. It is shedding light on a topic many fear to expose.

“Though it’s not without humor, ‘All the Bright Places’ takes teens’ emotions seriously and will move romantics of any age – in possibly unexpected ways,” Kimber Myers said in her review.

“All the Bright Places” is a cliché young adult film on the surface. But it contains a deeper message within. It is a piece of reassurance for lost teenagers – a call to find their way back. It is a reminder to everyone to care for those around us – notice the little details. It is a cry for attention toward helping those who are mentally ill. 

A tear-jerker, a comedy and a fluffy romance… “All the Bright Places” is all of the above and more. It’s every student’s teacher, telling us that beauty and light exist in even the darkest and ugliest places. 

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