By Mollie Campbell
Title: All the bright places
Genre: Romantic –Drama
Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Virginia Gardner
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Having never heard of the book, when I saw the title for ‘All the bright Places’ on Netflix, I thought I was just signing up for a cliché rom-com. Yet, mere moments into the film, I instantly realised that I had completely judged a book by its cover, because the next two hours were filled with emotional highs and lows that left me thinking deeply, long after the credits rolled.
All the bright places is the story of a teenaged girl ‘Violet’ (Fanning), who is grieving intensely for her sister, and ‘Finch’ (Smith), a fellow student who is instantly portrayed as a multi-faceted character, one in which we spend the whole film trying to decipher. They are drawn to one another because of the dark places they are clearly in, and are able to find pure love and happiness with one another, seemingly journeying into the light, hand in hand. The first half of the film we watch as Finch tries desperately to safely bring Violet back out of her bubble of grief, he becomes infatuated with the thought of helping her and being with her. There is a focal point on Violet, her pain and how others react to her pain. Having lived through the nightmare rollercoaster of grief myself, I resonated strongly with the way they portrayed her emotions. It felt real, the kind of representation we need to see more of.
As the film progresses, Finch and Violet become closer and start a class project together, which involves visiting different locations and attractions around Indiana. This is where their love story blossoms and we get to see some of that classic Netflix romance, full of the cheesiness that we mock yet secretly love, but there is a subconscious shift in the focal point, we start to really see the world through the eyes of Finch, a set of glasses we were convinced were painted in rose, but we begin to see that they were self-made, and that the viewpoint of Finch and his reality is much darker than we thought. He becomes even more hyper and passionate, this extreme emotion can switch in a matter of moments and he becomes more withdrawn, clearly suffering. His issues are foreshadowed right from the start, every time Violet thinks she is on the cusp of gaining an insight into his past, he backs away. This is followed by his complete disappearance, which nobody seems to find weird apart from Violet.
Eventually, he begins to open up more and attends an anonymous counselling session, where he finds out Violet’s seemingly fine on the outside friend Amanda (Gardner) is seeking help. This was one of the main highlight’s of the film for me, not the main characters, but Amanda‘s story, it is simple yet incredibly impactful. We are conditioned to believe that because the two main characters are showing signs of mental health issues that nobody else around them are as well. She wasn’t even on our radar of possibilities, it is so out of the blue and confirms what we are all beginning to learn as a society, the fact that some people who look fine on the outside, are going through an intense and life-changing battle internally. This tie-in really worked well in my opinion; at this point the film really begins to forcefully tackle the wider issues of mental health. This is a real sink or swim moment and instead of using the platform it created, I do feel that the writers built it up and then suddenly cooled it all off…we never get to understand the full extent to Finch’s mind-set before he shockingly takes his own life.
Moreover, of course we can see this type of scenario on its way, whether it was Violet or Finch, but the abruptness of the way they handled Finch’s final scenes were quite distressing. It seemed as if they had just completely brushed over the monumental final decisions the character was making, thus diminishing the complexity of the content. On the other hand, I like the way they handled it due to the sheer unpredictability of people who are suffering such intense mental health issues, there aren’t always massive signs in bright neon lights telling you that someone close to you is about to commit suicide. Not everybody says goodbye, makes any final arrangements or leaves a handwritten note, in reality people that choose to end their lives aren’t living out some final, romanticised moment on a big screen to the delicate notes of a beautiful soundtrack, they are committing suicide…that is the brutal truth. So, despite brushing over the moment, I think this is actually what the scene and movie required to be taken seriously, the abruptness is honestly portraying just how quick and finite it actually is.
The film ends with Violet losing the one person who helped her live again after the death of her sister, whilst this seems harsh; this too is raw and honest, truly portraying just how fragile and cruel life can be. Violet finishes her school project talking about Finch and everything he helped her to do that finally brought her into the bright places, despite him being gone. I really liked the ending, it didn’t diminish the undeniable pain the character is feeling, but it left a flicker of hope, showing us that there are bright places and sometimes it takes the help and perspective of someone else in order to reach them. Overall, even though the film certainly has some issues, the acting was great and the story was meaningful. It really sends a message in terms of how we live our lives, every second is fleeting and we need to cherish the memories we make as we are creating them, because they might never be felt again.
Thanks for reading.