ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES (2020) is an emotionally driven story with poor execution

Based on the book of the same name, All the Bright Places is the story of Violet (Elle Fanning) and Theodore (Justice Smith), who change each other’s lives, overcoming the emotional scars of their past by making the most of some of the smallest (and brightest) places.

All the Bright Places comes out of the gate with a solid premise and great ideas, but poor execution results in a pretty subpar story that makes it hard to get invested in. It runs at a relatively slow pace right from the beginning, it’s not taking any giant leaps in the story as it spends a tonne of time introducing us to our main characters and setting up the events to come. Slow is fine, allowing ample time to set up the main narrative is fine, however, this entire journey that the characters go on feels like just a lot of lengthy set up for the final act. It’s not particularly engaging as the majority of the time you’re waiting for the connection between the two leads to develop and then you’re waiting for something inevitably significant to happen. It just feels like a lot of waiting, and that’s not necessarily fun.

The tension, drama and pace picks up very slightly as you get into the third act, which is actually quite strong. Turns out the lengthy and rather bland journey to the final act pays off with a climax that is actually entertaining. For a story that is very emotionally driven, none of that emotion had any impact on me for the entire film up to the third act. The relationship at the forefront of the story just didn’t grab me as much as I’d have liked it to, however, certain events in the lead-up to the third act really upped the stakes and I thoroughly enjoyed the last 20 minutes or so of this movie. It was tense, emotional and, despite the journey being subpar, this ending gave it a strong conclusion that honestly saved the movie for me.

The highlight throughout would be the pretty delightful performances from both Elle Fanning and Justice Smith. As much as the story isn’t engaging, the driving forces that kept me focused on the film were these two performances. The reason why the climax works so well is because of the emotional bond formed between Elle and Justice. They both go all in with their characters, delivering emotionally impactful content through a number of scenes and sharing this electric chemistry that results in some small moments of levity throughout the film.

Other than those two performances, there are some other redeeming qualities in terms of the way the film looks and also the quite uplifting soundtrack. The cinematography is very well executed throughout. There are a number of scenes that are very pleasant to look at, framing these ‘bright places’ in a way that reflects how the characters see them as special.

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot else to say about this film as it’s quite forgettable. All the Bright Places struggles to draw you into the story as it really takes its time to build some emotional stakes and get you invested in the main relationship. It eventually does hook you in once the third act hits, thanks to the performances from Elle Fanning and Justice Smith, which leads to a strong ending that saves the film. It’s not the most original story in terms of how it progresses, but it does have a slight sense of charm that helps to get you through it. Despite looking quite promising, I’d say this is one you could skip unless you’ve got a strong interest in this genre of film or the source material.

3.6/10

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