By Ciéra Cree
Over the lockdown period caused as a result of COVID-19, I gradually noticed myself making time to watch films. The title ‘All The Bright Places’, similarly to the instance of what happened when I stumbled across ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ on Netflix, seemed somehow familiar so I decided to hit play.
At this point the only things which I knew about the film were that it was under two hours long and that one of its subgenres was romance. Now, however, I know a bit more; the story was initially published in 2015 in the form of a novel by Jennifer Niven, for instance, and it won awards including Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fiction.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Disclaimer: although not overtly detailed within the review, this film deals with topics such as depression and suicide.
‘All The Bright Places’ tells the story of a young student, Violet Markey (Elle Fanning), and the internal struggles that she faces. Within moments of starting the film, a viewer can detect her introverted nature and that she seems to be a person that does all that she can to maintain the division of her internal dialogue merging with that of her external world. She is quiet, glum and irritable; opening up to others is far from her forte.
To those who don’t know her, Violet’s nature may seem rather cold and although throughout the scenes we learn that she does indeed have friends, she tends to attempt to outcast herself regardless – that is, until she meets Finch.
Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), in my opinion, was a great portrayal and the film really wouldn’t have been the same without him. Yes, I suppose it’s easy to say considering that he’s one of the two mains in the script, but his multidimensional characterisation provided such a beautiful addition to the plot.
Finch met Violet on what would have been her belated sister’s nineteenth birthday. He was out on a run around the streets when he came across her standing on a ledge where the car crash that tied her siblings fate occurred. Despite being in a bad way, she still urged him to go home.
On the surface to some viewers this story as a whole could be broken down very simply: a young girl is grieving the death of her sister, she meets a boy and the boy makes her feel happy. On one hand this deconstruction isn’t untrue but if you’re looking for something a bit deeper then I encourage you to stay tuned.
The camerawork used during shots of Violet when she speaks to Finch is thoughtful and, on this end, it definitely didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. For example, when she is opening up to Finch in his car on the way to visit one of their many future “bright places”, the focus lingers on her face for what would normally be an uncomfortable amount of time. We are sutured into a medium close-up, as if we are positioned beside her, while we wait to see if she can muster up the words to describe how she feels. In a sense those shots, to me, shared somewhat of a resemblance to that of ones which in horror utilise psychoacoustics in order to create anticipation or suspended disbelief. Especially since Violet showed blatant understandable fear about entering the vehicle, the line delays worked well to throw a viewers thoughts around, in turn assisting to anchor their attention onto what she did go on to say.
Additionally Finch’s persistence is a strong element of the film to explore. Why did Violet, a girl whom he previously did not know, and her happiness mean so much to him? And, in relation to this, what spark did he see in her that no one else had?
I adore the way that this film holds a polysemic nature, as well as the fact that deeper meanings can be deciphered. No lie, as a watch it has made me think, which I believe is something that art should aspire to do. The tale caused me to ponder the impact of selflessness and how easy it is for people to assume that others have it easier than themselves. It’s nothing new when I say that there is no way that we can know what others are going through but the ways in which the film, largely through Finch, chooses to emphasise Violet’s good qualities and focus on the light that she holds within is so tender and inspiring.
From how she dressed and spoke to her sense of humour and facial expressions, Violet very much felt like her own person in this film as opposed to someone who was only seen as sad and struggling. And Finch; from beginning to end his quirky mannerisms, upbeat tempo and infectious desire for spontaneity remained evident, which is all the more powerful once we eventually learn why and what he is willing to go through to place warmth in someone else’s heart.
Images: Screenshots from the film by Ciéra Cree