I never read Jennifer Niven’s novel All The Bright Places. I’m also typically not one to watch adaptations of YA novels, such as the case here. So with those caveats out of the way, let me start by stating how pleasant a surprise this was for me. The movie has beautiful ups and tragic downs. It spans the full emotional terrain and is much more than just a teen movie. To be fair, I love teen movies, but the ones I adore appeal to more than just teenagers. This film fits into that category. It ranks with the best of John Hughes in likeability as well as relatability.
All The Bright Places starts out with Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) standing on a bridge, looking as though she’s about to jump. Justice Smith’s Finch (actually Theodore Finch but he goes by his surname) is running by but stops to ask Violet what she’s doing. He gets her down from the bridge, and so begins an unlikely friendship. Unlikely because Violet is one of the “cool kids,” and Finch is a “freak.” Violet’s friends warn her about Finch, and she cools to him for a bit until he convinces her to be his partner in a school project.
“Violet and Finch eventually begin dating, and Violet tries to help Finch feel better like he did for her.”
The project entails that the partners wander through their fine state of Indiana and find two places they love and then report on it. Finch takes Violet to places she never would’ve found or seen on her own. A few examples include a tree with a bunch of shoes thrown over the limbs, a cool graffiti wall, and a secret lake in the middle of the forest.
We find out pretty early on that Violet’s sister died in a car accident less than a year prior. Violet’s having a hard time adjusting to life without her. Finch helps her through one of the toughest periods, but Violet doesn’t see Finch’s own problems with depression. He also has a terrible history of abuse from his father. Violet and Finch eventually begin dating, and Violet tries to help Finch feel better like he did for her.
"…explores some dark themes in the brightest way possible."