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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All the Bright Places is the film adaptation of the popular, highly respected YA book by Jennifer Niven (who also cowrote the script). Two fragile teens -- one still hurting from a devastating loss, the other struggling with both internal and external upheaval -- meet, fall in love, and attempt to help one another heal. There are painful and sad moments in which grief, depression, and other mental disorders are core elements of the story. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and insults. A teen couple swims in underwear, kisses, and embraces in gentle foreplay, but there's no nudity or overt sexual activity. A boy admits to being "high" in one school scene; underage kids drink at a party. Two boys engage in a fist fight. This film, a sensitive, often intense emotional rite of passage, is best suited for teens.
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What's the story?
Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) hasn't recovered from the death of her older sister in ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. She's at the breaking point when she encounters Theodore Finch (Justice Smith). "Finch" is a charming, very literate boy from Violet's high school who has problems of his own, ones he barely manages to keep at bay. Compassionate and resourceful, Finch finds a way to reach Violet, then coerce her into being his partner in a two-person school project. In the process of Violet's reentry into the world, the two fall in love and create a fiercely safe space for one another. Sadly, it isn't long before both Violet and Finch realize that damaged souls cannot always be healed.
Is it any good?
Two talented young actors bring emotional depth to a movie that seeks to enlighten audiences about an increasingly complex and fragile teen world. All the Bright Places asserts that teen romcoms, while fun and distracting, aren't the only movies that matter to young audiences. Though the issues considered are familiar ones (grief, mental illness, bullying), the movie has original multidimensional characters and is both graceful and moving. Fans of the book may miss the back-and-forth of two narratives (Violet's and Finch's voices) telling the story, but director Brett Haley does a solid job of balancing the film's points of view.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies like All the Bright Places that deal with important issues facing teens. These movies often have teachable moments. What, if anything, did you take away from this one? If you've never experienced the emotional turbulence Violet and Finch encountered, do you know kids who have? Did the film make you more compassionate toward them?
One of the messages in this movie is about finding "the 1000 capacities in you." What is meant by that statement? How might the idea relate that to your own possibilities?
If you read the book All the Bright Places, do you think the filmmakers did a good job of turning it into a movie? Why or why not? What, if anything, did you miss? How long did the book take to read? Think about the challenges of making a two-hour (or less) movie out of a lengthy book.
What is a film "montage?" Which sequence in the movie is a montage? What did the filmmakers want you to take away from that sequence? What did the montage tell you about the characters and their relationship?
- On DVD or streaming: February 28, 2020
- Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp
- Director: Brett Haley
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: May 18, 2020
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