Welcome back to another movie review where I focus on all the negatives because that is what I’m all about. In all seriousness, I did watch another movie over the weekend and it wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t what I expected.
One of Netflix’s newest movie releases is based on a novel written by Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places. The book/movie focuses on two teens who are struggling to face the scars of their past.
Before I start the review, let me just say that I am looking at this film from the perspective of someone who has read the book. On its own, I’m sure it’s an amazing film, but I felt like the film was missing a lot.
Our main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, start their emotional journey together when they first meet at the bridge where Violet’s sister died due to a car accident. Theodore saves Violet from committing suicide there which causes Theodore to gain an interest in her. Our two main characters continue their journey from there.
Already, the film has changed their meeting place. I don’t mind when films make changes when working on adaptation because sometimes it works, but it didn’t quite work for me this time.
The characters originally meet on top of a belltower at school where it was revealed they both wanted to commit suicide. Theodore ends up saving Violet and her reputation when he tells all the bystanders and school staff that she saved him from jumping. I think this opening scene is a lot better compared to the film because it introduces our main characters and what BOTH of their struggles are going to be like.
The film never hints at the fact that Theodore is struggling with something until the end of the film. It feels like the filmmakers wanted to make Theodore’s struggle a big reveal. I thought this ruined the emotional impact that it could have had on the audience.
Later in the film, Violet and Theodore are required to do a project for their geography class where they have to explore more about Indiana and write a report on it. Theodore sees this as a chance for them to spend time together and takes advantage of the situation. He takes Violet to visit many unique places in Indiana which slowly help her heal and move past the tragedy she suffered.
I thought the film did this fairly well. It showed a lot of Violet’s character development in a way that didn’t feel rushed to the audience unlike Theodore’s, which we will get to next.
Theodore is suffering from something that is never disclosed to the audience. He briefly talked about his violent past with his father and how his mind “goes blank”, but that’s as much as we could get. He starts attending a mental health support group that didn’t do much for him.
Theodore ends up running away which resulted in him drowning himself at the lake he and Violet visited together. Violet finds him at the lake and the movie ends with Theodore’s funeral and Violet getting some closure with everything that has happened.
Theodore didn’t get as much screen time as Violet did when it comes to his story and character development. In the book, Theodore is revealed to have bipolar disorder, but in the movie, they never reveal what is wrong with Theodore. I’m not sure if they want to add a twist to the movie or if they thought it would better the story, but it personally didn’t work for me.
If they had revealed what he was going through at an earlier point in the movie the emotional impact would have been bigger. How is the audience supposed to care about what this character is going through if the film doesn’t properly disclose what is happening to him? I don’t expect them to directly tell us, but at least leave us with some sort of implication that he has bipolar disorder.
I would have liked to see more of just Theodore in the movie instead of Theodore AND Violet. It would have been interesting to see him have a bigger character arc.
Overall the film was decent. It wasn’t my favorite adaptation, but they tried. If you haven’t read the book you’ll probably enjoy this movie more than those who have read it. If you have read the book…just stick to the book.