If you’re on the market for a cheesy, sad teen romance this spring, here’s a flick for you. “Midnight Sun,” starring Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger, takes viewers for an awkward ride through adolescent love within the context of a chronic disease, set during the last summer before college.
This film portrays the life of a somewhat normal girl, Katie Price (Thorne), trying to live a somewhat normal life despite her xeroderma pigmentosum, which confines her inside her home, unable to ever make contact with sunlight.
The bubbly cast includes Rob Riggle as Katie’s father, Jack, and Quinn Shephard as Katie’s lovable sidekick, Morgan. The collective performances were entertaining, but the story of persisting love was overacted at far too many moments. The conversations between characters were often largely unbelievable, with a sizable amount too childish in content to be believable interactions between young adults.
With lines such as, “This is what Taylor Swift does — she has awkward interactions with boys and she just writes amazing songs about it,” every pop culture reference felt wholly forced. The writers overexerted themselves in trying to make the characters relatable for their intended audience, reinforcing teenage stereotypes all the while.
The best performance of the film by far was that of actress Suleka Mathew, who played Dr. Paula Fleming, Katie’s best source of medical advice and treatment. Mathew excellently conveyed the actual severity of the real disease by maintaining her poise as a professional and showing genuine sympathy.
And yet, despite this brief respite, several scenes are too irritating to sit through, such as when Katie tries breaking up with Charlie Reed (Schwarzenegger) and he disregards her fear to play her “knight in shining armor.” Some moments were downright unrealistic, as when Katie brings her guitar to downtown Seattle and attracts an abnormally large crowd to hear her sing — in a performance that was subpar at best.
The featured music was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film, including tracks by Waters and Atlas Genius. Unfortunately, these tracks are weighed down by Thorne’s original performances. As director Scott Speer recently told The Daily Californian, Thorne picked up guitar for the film — and it’s evident.
Besides the fact that pretty much the entire first half was painfully awkward, hell if the end doesn’t make viewers shed at least a few tears. Living vicariously through Thorne’s character, viewers can begrudgingly empathize as she tries to live as full of a life as she can with her condition.
This being said, there is a significant change in tone once Katie’s illness grows more severe. As unfortunate as the context, this is when the film actually starts to become enjoyable to watch — when it finally starts to provoke real emotion. The entire dynamic between Katie and her father is heightened to a heartwarming degree, one of the film’s sparse gems.
Another notable highlight is the cinematography throughout the film, which was considerably appealing to the eye, and the lighting — especially in outdoor night scenes — nicely complimented the dramatic tone.
Anyone who watches the film can appreciate the fact that this story does not let Katie be defined by her disease. Katie is portrayed as a girl with normal feelings and interests that anyone could relate to in one way or another, regardless of her setbacks. Rather than let viewers be left with yet another teen tragedy, the film instills a sense of hope.
Regardless of its awkwardness, ‘Midnight Sun’ intends to spread a positive message of persistence — of experiencing everything you possibly can, while you can. This movie may not be one to recommend if you’re looking for a truly cinematic experience or if you just want to watch something good, but sometimes a cringy romance is all we really need.
“Midnight Sun” is now playing at the UA Berkeley 7.
Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected].