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Film Review: 'Midnight Sun' Channels Nicholas Sparks for Younger Audiences

March 23, 2018Sherry Li

Midnight Sun is a sweet, tear-jerking romance movie from director Scott Speer, which is reminiscent of a Nicholas Sparks movie made for a younger audience. It stars Bella Thorne as Katie, who has a rare disease that causes sun exposure to be deadly, and Patrick Schwarzenegger, as the high school golden boy.  

Katie, who is confined to her house during the day, has watched the world from her special windows. Over the years, she sees Charlie walk past her house almost everyday and she develops a crush on him. On the night of her high school graduation, she stays out late to play guitar and sing at the train station, and Charlie just happens to hears her. They quickly begin to fall in love, but Katie is reluctant to tell him the truth about her disease, putting everything at risk.

Though the premise feels a little ridiculous, and its dialogue a little bit awkward, this is a cute film overall. It's a little hard to buy Thorne as an awkward teenager who doesn't know she's beautiful (despite the fact that everyone constantly tells her that she is), but as the movie goes on, her performance certainly gets stronger. Midnight Sun borrows thematically from all the popular films about sick teenagers released in recent years, like The Fault in Our Stars or Everything, Everything, and uses Katie's disease as the crux of the film — it's the conflict, and basically the entire plot. Though if I had to compare it to another movie, the storyline probably fits A Walk to Remember more closely, where the girl the boy falls in love with changes his life for the better.

However, Midnight Sun lacks the emotional depth of a real Nicholas Sparks film and certainly doesn't leave viewers with the same impact of a film like A Walk to Remember. That's not to say that moviegoers won't be leaving the theater with teary eyes, but the storyline feels more adolescent, with a plot that feels more align with the star-crossed daydreams of a teenage romance fan. It has a quite a few ridiculous moments — like when Charlie walks into a party and everyone there stops to clap and cheer, or when 30 seconds after Katie starts singing, a crowd develops to watch her perform — that take you out of the film just because they don't feel realistic. At my screening, I overheard the guy sitting next to me accurately describe it to his date as, "There were a few WTF moments but the rest of it was quite beautiful."

The characters are not as interesting and feel pretty shallow — Katie is relatively bland, as all you really know about her is that she loves her dad and wants to be a singer; Charlie is struggling with his identity after an accident that cost him his swim scholarship to Berkeley, even though besides that he is literally perfect; and Katie's quirky friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard) is conveniently there for some laughs and friendship. Once Katie and Charlie meet, it's pretty much insta-love, with no real explanation for what makes Charlie or Katie fall for one another. The result is a sugary sweet movie filled with kissing, perfect dates, a swoon worthy love interest, and beautiful cinematography. The pacing of the movie is a little off, with the third act happening kind of abruptly, but the intended audience probably won't mind too much.

So while Midnight Sun might garner its fair share of criticisms, this is the kind of film that knows exactly what it is and who it’s for. My friend described it as "the perfect cliche rom-com I've been waiting for." It’ll make a good date night movie and will easily satisfy your craving for a romance.

Midnight Sun releases March 23rd, 2018 from Entertainment One. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality. Its runtime is 1 hr. 31 min.

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