UK Release Date: 30th March 2018
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Scott Speer
Writer: Eric Kirsten
Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard
Synopsis: A teenage girl suffering from a condition that makes her lethally vulnerable to sunlight begins to challenge her isolated life when she falls for a man who finds her busking in a station at night.
There is no way that Midnight Sun should be a good movie. It’s a syrupy, sentimental US remake of a star vehicle for a Japanese singer-songwriter and it features Bella Thorne – darling of Instagram feeds and crappy indie movies. The film also boasts a near-identical premise to last year’s YA adaptation Everything, Everything, which focused on a girl who finds romance despite being trapped inside her home by a medical condition. Despite all of those things counting against it – not to mention the same director as the hideous Status Update – there’s something immensely charming about this movie.
Our protagonist is Katie Price – no, not that one – and she is living with the medical condition xeroderma pigmentosum, which means she cannot be exposed to sunlight or it will severely damage her and trigger neurological degeneration. Isolated from the world, she spends a lot of time with her high-energy father (Rob Riggle) and childhood friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard), as well as watching Charlie (Patrick ‘Son of Arnold’ Schwarzenegger) out of her bedroom window every day. One night, when she’s busking at a train station, she bumps into Charlie and they soon begin a relationship, though Katie elects to keep her condition a secret.
Midnight Sun seems to exist in the same bubblegum, early noughties teenager world of Status Update, seemingly linking director Scott Speer‘s movies together in a pastel-coloured, silly equivalent of the Quentin Tarantino world. It’s a shonky world of filmmaking, in which “holy pregnant cow!” is a valid exclamation and running away from the rising sun is a viable thing to do. And yet, there’s a certain charm to it all in Midnight Sun against all odds, and a lot of that comes from the performances.
Bella Thorne has a long history of being better than the movies in which she appears but, when it comes to Midnight Sun, she elevates the story. It’s a performance of very simple charm that comes from how believably Thorne plays an isolated teenager, especially one who’s prone to turning into a sickly sweet songstress a la Keira Knightley in Begin Again. She particularly shines in her relationship with Riggle’s effervescent dad, in a refreshing teen-parent dynamic that’s built on trust and understanding rather than suspicion and resentment. She’s equally disarming in her tender, chaste relationship with Schwarzenegger, for whom the lack of his father’s overt charisma is no issue given his obvious acting ability.
For the most part, this is quite a gentle movie, even as it deals with life and death decisions. It’s a nakedly manipulative movie, tugging at the audience’s heartstrings in the same way as The Fault in Our Stars or the aforementioned Everything, Everything. However, it’s considerably warmer and sweeter than certainly the latter example and, as a result, it’s impossible to resent it for its straightforward, silly sentiment. I was too busy crying to notice anyway.
Pop or Poop?
Despite the trappings of a lame Nicholas Sparks adaptation or a standard YA weepie, Midnight Sun takes a trio of solid central performances and stirs them into a syrupy, emotional mixture to produce a confection that is perhaps a little too sweet and isn’t perfectly made, but tastes good nonetheless.
Bella Thorne deserves all of the credit in the world for making this work and it’s definitely the best Rob Riggle has ever been, which admittedly isn’t a title that has much competition.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.