Based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Niven, “All the Bright Places” focuses on the relationship between two struggling high school seniors, Violet (Elle Fanning) and Theodore (Justice Smith). Violet has trouble after losing her sister in a car accident, while Theodore — who goes by his last name, “Finch” — deals with depression and finds it difficult to attend his classes. Warning: this contains spoilers.
Finch becomes interested in Violet after he finds her standing on the ledge of a bridge. Worried that she’ll jump off, Finch gets on top of the ledge and stands next to Violet while he does his best job to calm her down. Fortunately, his efforts work, and she agrees to step down from the bridge. The two attend high school together in Indiana, and their relationship continues to develop when they’re paired up for a geography project. As they wander around the state, Violet and Finch discover more about their feelings and each other.
While the first half of the film focuses on Finch’s efforts to save Violet, the second half centers on Violet’s unsuccessful attempts to save Finch. Though he’s willing to do so much in order to help Violet, he becomes closed off when she asks him about his own feelings. As Finch’s sister and friends tell Violet, he has a habit of disappearing for a few days without letting anyone know where he is. He’s secretive and emotionally isolated, and by the end of the film, Violet finds that her own words aren’t enough to help him.
“All the Bright Places” does well in portraying common issues that teens struggle with, giving audiences plenty of storylines they may find relatable. Finch grew up with an abusive father and deals with suicidal thoughts –– one scene, in particular, shows him spending a prolonged period of time underwater while taking a bath. Violet is grieving her sister and sorting through feelings of survivor’s guilt.
The tone of the film feels akin to similar adaptations such as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” In those examples and others like it, the lead characters are brought together through a shared level of understanding from individually dealing with depression, grief or an illness. In “All the Bright Places,” Violet has trouble opening up to anyone about her sister’s death until Finch relates to her. When together, the two share an “us against the world” mentality often seen in other coming-of-age stories.
The film’s soundtrack is exceptional. All of the background music feels perfectly timed during scenes and complements the story. Some of the most notable songs featured include “Where Do You Go?” by Claire George, “Too Young to Burn” by Sonny & The Sunsets and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship.
Along with Elle Fanning and Justice Smith, “All the Bright Places” stars other notable actors in supporting roles. Luke Wilson and Kelli O'Hara play Violet’s parents, James and Sheryl, and comedian Keegan-Michael Key portrays Embry, Finch’s counselor at school.
The movie’s cinematography is especially well done. There are several faraway shots of beautiful scenery as the characters travel through rural Indiana. The first half of the movie seems noticeably darker than the first, but after Violet and Finch spend more time together and become romantically involved, the shots become brighter and colorful, complementing their happiness. One really good shot comes when the sun shines directly between them as they first act on their feelings.
Filled with heartfelt, humorous, relatable and tragic moments, the movie has plenty to offer audiences, and while it’s not exactly a happy film, “All the Bright Places” is a realistic story that profoundly highlights the importance of mental health.
Contact Kira Baldau at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.