Watching the sunset is one of those clichéd things couples do, but in this romantic teen drama, that’s not an option for Katie Price (Bella Thorne). 18-year-old Katie has had a rare condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum since birth. This means that even the slightest exposure to sun could lead to cancer and eventually death. She spends the whole day in her house behind specially-coated windows and is homeschooled by her father Jack (Rob Riggle).
Katie’s social interaction is limited to her best friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard). Katie has long harboured a crush on Charlie Reed (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who passes by her window every day, unaware of her existence. The two finally meet face-to-face when Katie is busking at the train station one night. Charlie is immediately smitten and they both fall for each other. However, Katie is intent on keeping her condition a secret, worried that learning about her illness will change Charlie’s perception of her. Will true love triumph in the darkness?
Midnight Sun is a remake of the 2006 Japanese film of the same name. It will be difficult for anyone over the age of 13 to take this movie too seriously, as it feeds into the fantasies of many an adolescent girl. Midnight Sun feels as if it’s an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book, and it also feels like a Lifetime “illness of the week” movie. Of course, there are the unavoidable comparisons to 2017’s Everything, Everything, which was about a girl who couldn’t go outside because of an autoimmune disorder. It seems blissfully oblivious to the cynicism it will generate, which perhaps lends it some charm.
This is the second feature film by director Scott Speer, who made his debut with Step Up Revolution and has directed music videos for most of his career. Midnight Sun feels like an extended music video, and perhaps one could imagine it being the plot of an early Taylor Swift MV. There’s too much gloss and artifice, and nothing in the film feels remotely real. At the same time, it isn’t heightened enough to work as a fantasy. This is to say nothing of the dialogue, which is unintentionally awkward rather than realistically reflecting the awkwardness that arises when one talks to their crush.
Like many teen romance films, Midnight Sun is wont to give kids unrealistic expectations of high school romance. Katie falls in love with the first boy she sets eyes upon, and it turns out that he loves her right back. True love, forever and ever. This is compounded by how the film romanticises Katie’s condition. She is adamant that Charlie sees her as more than just her illness, but the film seems incapable of doing the same. Her other defining trait is that she writes songs and plays the guitar, but for the most part, Katie is little more than someone who has Xeroderma Pigmentosum.
Both leads are attractive but have little genuine chemistry. Thorne is appealing and effectively conveys how Katie feels held back by her condition.
Schwarzenegger is strapping and exceedingly handsome, fitting into the Abercrombie-model mould of Hollywood’s current leading man crop. Neither is terrible, but the dialogue does them few favours and the would-be romantic scenes are hopelessly cheesy.
Rob Riggle plays the requisite cool dad, who has been helping Katie cope with her condition since childhood. Unfortunately, Riggle is more adept at playing cynical, unlikeable comedic characters, and sometimes struggles to muster the sweetness required to play Jack.
Quinn Shephard is an effervescent presence as the stock best friend, but the Morgan character never transcends her designation as the stock best friend.
This reviewer is a hopeless romantic, and there were times when he felt caught in Midnight Sun’s tractor beam. However, it’s easy to realise just how emotionally manipulative the film is, and this reaches laughable levels by the time Midnight Sun reaches its conclusion. It’s derivative of other teen romances and while the target audience might be moved, this film will induce eye-rolling in everyone else.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars