I read the novel All the Bright Places about four years ago, and whilst I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite YA novels, I did enjoy it, and even shed a few tears. When I saw the trailer for this film adaptation, released today on Netflix, I was worried as the casting seemed all wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have been?
Director Brett Haley does a solid job adapting the source material. What he does right, he does very right. The scenes of Violet and Finch falling for each other whilst exploring Indiana are almost perfect and will make you want to be young, in love, and carefree all over again.
There are a handful of small changes made to the source material, but none of which really bothered me. The place I felt it faltered compared to the book is the directing of Finch’s character. Haley makes All the Bright Places Violet’s story, rather than Violet and Finch’s story as in the source text. This does wonders for Violet, but I missed the opportunity to see Finch’s descent on screen.
Teenagers Violet and Finch find their paths cross and see a kindred spirit in each other. Embarking on a school assignment to ‘wander’ Indiana’s ‘wonders,’ the pair start to open up, heal, and fall in love.
As I already mentioned, there are a few small changes to the original story (the screenplay was co-written by original author Jennifer Niven), but for the most part it is a faithful adaptation that moves from a first person narrative to on screen easily without the use of voiceover. I do feel this is one of the limitations with Finch’s character in the film, as his chapters in the latter half of the book failed to truly translate to screen.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
After watching the trailer, this was the element I was really worried about. Neither Elle Fanning nor Justice Smith would be who I would have chosen for the roles, and I’m a big fan of Justice Smith, so I was highly concerned about how he would translate to Finch. Smith’s Finch is great, quirky, oddball, and silently damaged. He doesn’t truly demonstrate the mania as seen in the novel, but large parts of that were cut from the story, so that should not detract from his performance. His chemistry with Fanning is palpable and they both charm in scenes together. The supporting cast is equally strong; a brilliant collection of young talent (including a favourite of mine from Australian soap Neighbours!) and some excellent talent such as Luke Wilson as the older parental figures.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The soundtrack and score is beautiful. I found it sending chills down my spine in the right places and bringing tears to my eyes at times. I’ve spent the last hour at my office listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and know this will now be one of my frequent rotations. Not a bad choice in the bunch, and the orchestral score is really the heart of the film. Can I give two full popcorns?
The film's design is everything you’d expect from a YA Netflix film. Lovely big houses, warm colours, and wide expanses of space. My one downfall is Finch’s house, especially in the latter half of the film where he ‘destroys’ his room. It still seemed pretty normal for me, and his closet hideout was not explored in detail at all.
"I Wasn't Worried About What Would Happen If I Lived..."
Genre: Drama. Romance.
There are always issues adapting novels to film, as every reader has their own picture of what should be happening. There were a few minor issues I had with the adaptation, mostly in relation to Finch in the second half of the film. However, viewing All the Bright Places solely as a film, or as someone with no knowledge of the source text, it’s a well-crafted, touching and enjoyable story. It left me feeling wistful, brought a few tears to my eyes, and has me wondering where my book of quotes I wrote when I was a teenager is now…