WHAT ITS ABOUT:
All The Bright Places tells the story of Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) and Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), who meet and change each other’s lives forever. As they struggle with the emotional and physical scars of their past, they come together, discovering that even the smallest places and moments can mean something.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
"'I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me.' You have at least a thousand capacities in you. Even if you don’t think so."
Theodore Finch (Justice Smith) is struck by a hopeless Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) standing on the edge of a bridge about to jump. He gets up on the ledge with her and holds out his hand – Finch, 'The freak', as he's known at school, finds Violet intriguing, and although hesitant at first, Violet feels like with Finch, she's no longer alone. But the very first words he shares to inspire her and pull her out of her depression – "I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me." – becomes bittersweet when you realise this is a movie about more than just two teens falling in love. It's about "staying awake" – staying alive.
All The Bright Places is a lot like many other YA novels and movies. The Fault In Our Stars comes to mind, with this film seeing two people fall in love while trying to navigate the darkness. For both Finch and Violet, that means battling mental health issues amid trauma.
And for a second, with an alternative soundtrack that you'll have on repeat, tender and charming performances by both Elle Fanning and Justice Smith and an almost poetic screenplay by Liz Hannah and Jennifer Niven, who also wrote the young adult novel, you almost forget just how tragic this story is.
There are genius little inserts that explore mental health. And though many critics have pointed out that there isn't a proper exploration into why Finch finds himself slipping into the darkness, the post-its that help him keep track of his thoughts that become a mosaic on his bedroom wall, the class project that helps Violet find the beauty in the world again and the 'Before I die...' wall that has them revealing their deepest fears and life's purpose in the middle of the night, is a beautifully subtle way of showing the complexity of mental health. And sometimes, not everyone who is struggling can verbalise that and ask for help.
So Finch's slow descent, without much explanation at all, is perhaps a reminder that some are quietly suffering, and that’s the reality of it.
But still, you'll see the film find light, just as Finch found it in Violet. "You’re all the colours in one, at full brightness," he tells her in another suspiciously idyllic moment in the film.
A despondent Violet doesn’t believe him. But his words and relentless spirit eventually pulls her out of her own darkness, and is an always-welcome and often much-needed reminder.
"There are bright places, even in dark times," she says after it all. "We can be that bright place."
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: