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All The Bright Places (2020) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

Community Rating: 79.94% (1)

For those who love YA novel adaptations, the kind that give you butterflies and causes you to cry, “All The Bright Places,” is definitely something to check out.


Director(s)Brett Haley
Screenplay ByJennifer Niven, Liz Hannah
Date Released (Netflix)2/28/2020
Genre(s)Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Young Adult
Duration1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Noted Cast
VioletElle Fanning
Theodore “Theo” FinchJustice Smith
KateAlexandra Shipp
CharlieLamar Johnson
RoamerFelix Mallard
AmandaVirginia Gardner

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Summary/ Review (Ending Spoilers & Sequel Potential Are On The Second Page)

After the death of her sister the year before, a light went out when it comes to Violet. Now she refuses to get in cars, is distant, and many find it worrisome. However, with everyone giving her space, a certain level of isolation comes into play that Violet is becoming a little too comfortable in. Which especially isn’t good around the time of the anniversary of her sister’s death.

Luckily, while on a run, a classmate named Theodore Finch, often just called Finch, happens to be running by and sees Violet on the ledge of a bridge. He joins her, to convince her to come off, and the next hour and 48 minutes, he pushes her to be all he sees in her. All the while slowly drowning in his own darkness.

Collected Quote(s) or .Gifs

Yeah, people are stupid. But the tiniest few might mean well.
— Theo

If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.
— Violet (Quoting Virginia Woolf)

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
— Violet (Quoting Cesare Pavese) All The Bright Places

You’re all the colors in one… at full brightness.
— Theo #AllTheBrightPlaces

Sidebar

Roamer Felix Mallard All The Bright Places 2020

  • Can we come to an agreement that Roamer was an ass and used his social currency to push the idea Theo was a freak, when really he probably got sick and tired of Roamer’s comments?

Highlights

Violet & Theo’s Relationship

There is something to be said about films where the male character takes on all the emotional weight of making the female character come back to life. Maybe it is because, too often, you hear of women doing that for men, and see it on screen, and it’s hard to watch them go through the abuse of breaking through someone’s wall to get them to grow. So seeing Violet be the one in pain, in this cocoon that Theo taps and helps bring light into, it’s different.

But, you have to note the chemistry and skills of Fanning and Smith, as well as the writing of Niven and Hannah, as to how they balance dealing with Violet’s grief and finding an appropriate time for Violet and Theo’s friendship to evolve into love. For while there is some realm of dependency there, it’s the kind which comes when someone makes you vulnerable, and you trust them. However, rather than make Theo out to be a crutch, he is someone to lean on.

And what pushes the interest is how Theo doesn’t allow Violet to do for him as he did for her. It’s in that where you see how so many people who come into your life, bursting with energy and brilliance, suffer. For it is with them being stuck in that mindset of what they are to other people, they refuse to let others be that for them. Making every time Theo wanders off to be alone a bit heartbreaking. Especially as you learn why he feels the need to wander and find his own cocoon. One Violet, at times, is desperate to break him out of since she knows how stifling it can be to close yourself off and go into autopilot.

Theo’s Relationship With Kate & Charlie

Setting aside Theo’s relationship with Violet, his relationship with his sister Kate, and his best friend Charlie are also notable. Charlie especially just because of one line where he notes he loves Theo. Mind you, in a platonic way, but the way Johnson delivers that line is with the kind of love you don’t often see a, assumingly, heterosexual man express about another straight dude. And with them both being Black, it just means so much more to me. Especially with Charlie noting that Theo is a lot, and he can easily burn someone out. Yet, despite that, he won’t abandon him. Something about Charlie saying that, even with the film not touching on race or Black culture at all, reminds you how much casting can completely change a moment.

Charlie Lamar Johnson All The Bright Places 2020

Switching to his relationship with Kate, while, like Charlie, Kate doesn’t play a large role, it remains impactful. For with their dad gone and mom always on a business trip, all they have is each other. Which in “All The Bright Places,” their love is shown through a special handshake, the way Shipp reminds Smith’s character she loves him, or the handful of conversations they have. The combination gets you lost in the acting in ways that feel increasingly rare when it comes to YA films. Especially since they feel increasingly geared towards a handful of formulas.

The Exploration of Grief, Mental Illness, and Trying To Move On

From one character who seems perfectly fine and hides their suffering, to Theo who is constantly swaying between agony and joy, mental health is a big thing. For example, there is one scene, towards the end, when we hear multiple people say their diagnosis, and Theo says he doesn’t have a label, which could speak to you. Primarily in the form of how much power is in a name. With people being able to say they are bulimic, have anxiety, depression, what have you, while it makes that issue real, it also makes it something to defend yourself from and attack.

But, without a means to name something, all you have is yourself. There is no separation or means to explain what is going on besides it just being you. And as shown by Roamer calling Theo a thief, or Theo trying to figure out if he might be becoming like his dad, being unable to say something is not you at your core or can be treated, it makes it hard to deal with.

And even beyond mental illnesses, there is moving on. How does one press forward after someone else dies, you attempt suicide, or you learn you may have a struggle that will last the rest of your life? How can you move on when no method commonly pushed, such as talking to others, works? Much less, who wants to live to fight another day against some struggle? Like a cold, you just want to find a cure, and without one existing, the film helps you understand how daunting it is to have to deal with that. Especially in a world that is filled with people unable, or unwilling, to adapt to those who struggle.

On The Fence

Wishing We Got To Know Some Characters Better

Kate Alexandra Shipp All The Bright Places 2020

With all the above said, one of the things which do put a damper on the film is you get so invested in most characters, that it makes the little you get unfortunate. An example, Kate has this person in her life named Tina. Now, being the times we are in are diverse and queer-friendly, so comes the question if Tina is just a friend or girlfriend? Also, Charlie seemingly has a special friend, but her name isn’t said, and besides knowing she identifies as she, the person we see Charlie hang out with, when Theo isn’t around, is a mystery.

And, honestly, if you are someone who overthinks strange things and seeks out answers, this movie could frustrate you. Like, as another example, why did Theo throw a chair at Roamer is something I would have loved explained beyond the possibility Theo has anger issues like his dad. For with Roamer seeming like a soiled sanitary product, I feel like there is more to that story.

Yet, I recognize, whenever I say I wished there was more of this and that, it would mean a longer runtime. Which, to be honest, around the time this was an hour in, it started to sag a bit and made me wonder if I could make it through the last 40 some odd minutes.

Overall

Advised For Those Who Like:

  1. Crying
  2. Young adult films
  3. The combination of one manic pixie type, in this case, a boy, and the almost stone-faced person whose life they forever change
  4. Watching kids deal with personal issues

Would Watch Again? – Worth Revisiting

Netflix has a slightly sordid reputation, thanks to “13 Reasons Why” when it comes to exploring the mental health of young people. However, while that show may get a lot of criticism, damn near every other movie, before and since, dealing with young people dealing with depression, eating disorders (like “To The Bone”) have been superb. “All The Bright Places” joins that list and truly is worth seeing.

What Would Your Rating Be?

Negative Mixed Positive

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All The Bring Places Ending Spoilers

Amanda Virginia Gardner All The Bright Places 2020

Simply put, Theo kills himself. After going to a group therapy session, he has long been pushed to going, and meeting Amanda there, one of Violet’s friends, and learning it isn’t necessarily a cure, that messes with him. Then when you add in a conversation Theo has with his sister, Kate, in which he tries to find one redeeming factor about their dad, and she struggles to make it seem their dad can be redeemed, it pushes Theo to a dark place. Why? Well, if Kate is saying people like his dad can’t be redeemed, no matter what nice things they did, and Theo fears becoming like him, what is left?

After all, he has been doing a weekly counseling session for who knows how long, at school, did a group therapy thing and was told it is not a fix but, at best, something to help you get by, so what’s left? Even when he was the good guy and helped a girl break out of her shell and join everyone in the light, that wasn’t enough (Thus flipping Roamer’s claim of Violet trying to fix Theo, when it was really the other way around). He still found himself getting depressed, anxious, and feeling like he was losing control.

So, with feeling hopeless, even though his sister loved him, Charlie, and Violet, he drowned himself.

Is A Sequel Possible?

Could a sequel explore whether Violet kept up what Theo inspired? Yes. Plus, they could explore Kate’s grief, Charlie’s, and even dive into Amanda being bulimic and attempting suicide twice. But following the events of this film would be hard and seems like something that shouldn’t be done.

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Violet & Theo’s Relationship - 89%
Theo’s Relationship With Kate & Charlie - 88%
The Exploration of Grief, Mental Illness, and Trying To Move On - 90%
Wishing We Got To Know Some Characters Better - 79%

87%

Netflix has a slightly sordid reputation, thanks to “13 Reasons Why” when it comes to exploring the mental health of young people. However, while that show may get a lot of criticism, damn near every other movie, before and since, dealing with young people dealing with depression, eating disorders (like “To The Bone”) have been superb. “All The Bright Places” joins that list.

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Amari Allah

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

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