The virtues of this star-crossed teen romance can't quite overcome its contrivances. Like 2017's charming Everything, Everything, to which it bears a striking (and uncomfortable?) resemblance, Midnight Sun struggles with the increasingly tricky challenge of how to craft a big enough obstacle to keep two would-be lovers apart in today's age of instant global communication. Both films use ultra-rare but dramatically convenient medical conditions to isolate their main characters in their nice homes in their fancy suburbs and keep them from living full lives with their perfect, evolved, dreamboat crushes. Midnight hopes to coast on Thorne and Shephard's charms and the shiny dreaminess of love interest Charlie, with a boost from Katie's songs.
But its wall isn't built high enough. Why must Katie be a hermit? Why can't she share her secret with Charlie until it becomes a safety issue? Does Charlie have any flaws, or is his terrible secret that he's perfect? The story takes place in a fantasy world in which teens drink at parties with no consequences, even when they jump behind the wheel of a truck right afterward. Charlie has ins everywhere, it seems, including nightclubs, recording studios, and train stations, despite his obsessive devotion to swimming. And perhaps least understandably, these two attractive teens make out all over the place but apparently never go past first base (despite the fatalism that informs the film's second half). This lack of mooring in reality sets the drama adrift and makes it difficult to invest in the characters' plight. But it will certainly appeal to romantic teens, and there's one standout performance: Riggle, in a rare extended dramatic appearance. He ekes out a few chuckles as Katie's devoted dad, but, more importantly, he provides ballast and emotional realism. More of that grounding might have benefited Midnight Sun.