The latest Netflix drama, “All The Bright Places,” directed by Brett Haley and adapted from a novel by Jennifer Niven, who also co-scripts, may at first glance look like a teen flick of boy meeting girl, falling in love and what happens next.
But the film goes beyond that to convey how mental illness in young people can often go unnoticed and hence untreated.
Some of those who have watched the 15-certificate movie, released on Feb. 28, have been alerting others on social media to the fact it is not a romcom as the trailer suggests, but something that should have a trigger warning.
Writing on Twitter, one person said: “‘All the Bright Places’ on Netflix is about suicide and mental illness and I hate how the trailer almost framed the story like Violet and Finch are ‘two broken people who are going to fix each other.’ I hope Netflix gives a proper trigger warning before the movie.”
Justice Smith’s Theodore Finch character has a violent side to him and could be expelled from school. And his classmate, Violet Markey (Elle Fanning), is charming and vivacious, but the tragic death of her sister in a car accident has turned her into a recluse.
A year after the tragedy, Violet stands at the edge of a bridge ready to jump when Theodore, who loves to jog, sees her, and gently convinces her to step off. A school writing assignment to travel around Indiana – where the two live – brings Theodore and Violet closer together.
Haley, in a very subtle way, conveys how to cope with abuse and other forms of trauma which adults often do not notice and, remarkably, the film does not use romance as a cure-all for the harsh truths of trauma and mental illness.
Instead viewers follow two teenagers as they deal with life-changing loss with a refreshingly sober touch.
The author uses her own personal story to help teenagers cope with their problems. A tight script and superb direction make viewing engaging – and not just for kids, but also adults.
Both Fanning and Smith are impressive without slipping into a melodramatic mode.+