Guiding the Lost Soul

“All the Bright Places (2020)” depicts the journey of two lost souls seeking to help and heal each other

chel writes
Counter Arts

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“Finch taught me that there’s beauty in the most unexpected of places, and that there are bright places even in dark times. And that, if there isn’t, you can be that bright place… with infinite capacities.” — Violet Markey

“All the Bright Places” Movie Poster — Photo from Netflix

Content Warning: This content includes a mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised, and individuals sensitive to this topic are encouraged to exercise caution while reading.

I caught this movie during the pandemic, marking the first compelling tragic romance film I watched since A Star is Born (2018). Although the plots of these two films are different, I think both movies succeed in exploring the theme of mental health very well, and I appreciate the way they depict this crucial issue.

All the Bright Places is a 2020 American teen romantic drama film adapted from Jennifer Niven’s novel of the same name. Directed by Brett Haley and written by Jennifer Niven with Liz Hannah, the movie was highly anticipated, especially by fans of teen drama films. The inclusion of renowned actress Elle Fanning as both a producer and the lead added to the heightened expectations. Brett Haley also emphasized that the film addresses mental health issues among teenagers as its central theme.

The film narrates the story of a girl named Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) who experiences profound sorrow following the death of her brother. Contemplating suicide by standing on a bridge, Violet captures the attention of Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), who happens to be casually strolling and listening to his favorite music. Finch, witnessing Violet’s intent to end her life, approaches her and successfully prevents the tragedy. Since that encounter, Finch consistently endeavors to alleviate Violet’s sorrow by taking her on journeys to hidden, beautiful places. Unbeknownst to Violet, Finch also grapples with issues within his soul that require healing.

Elle Fanning as Violet and Justice Smith as Finch in “All the Bright Places” — Photo from Netflix

The film contains exceptional performances from its cast. Smith, with just the expressiveness in his eyes, manages to convey the entire dialogue existing in his character’s mind. Fanning portrays the sensitive character of Violet remarkably well, too. The movie delivers a powerful message, acting as a wake-up call for teenagers who often internalize their issues, leading to mental distress. It also addresses the issue of racism, portraying Finch, a character of black descent, consistently being stereotyped as having a short temper.

The main strength of this film lies in the meticulous atmosphere built throughout each part of the story. It strikes a balance between romantic scenes and addressing mental health issues, exemplified by Finch serving as both Violet’s lover and a source of healing from her traumatic grief. Moments, where Violet opens up about her struggles while alone with Finch in beautiful settings, provide a safe space for her. The blend of romance and the interaction between the two main characters in mending Violet’s soul also cleverly distracts the audience from other mental health issues. Who would have thought that Finch, always smiling and uttering sweet words to Violet, harbors a load of burdens in his mind without confiding in anyone? Finch’s struggles shed light on another aspect of mental illness: even those who seem always cheerful can conceal deep emotional wounds.

“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.” — Finch to Violet

Elle Fanning as Violet and Justice Smith as Finch in “All the Bright Places” — Photo from Netflix

The story of two lovers providing comfort to each other while facing their respective illnesses in this film reminds me of another romance tale. Aside from A Star Is Born, back in 2014, The Fault in Our Stars depicted a more similar story. The movie shows how a lover becomes a supportive figure in life issues, specifically dealing with cancer in that film. Sharing the same genre as All the Bright Places, the movie successfully leaves a profound impact, moving its audiences to tears.

All the Bright Places focuses on mental health issues and features a backdrop that often takes place in the great outdoors. As a result, the audience is not only treated to romantic dialogues but also to beautiful natural landscapes.

Unfortunately, the storyline of this film can be considered quite fast-paced. From the initial meeting, the emergence of various conflicts, to the resolution of these conflicts, it feels somewhat forced upon the audience in just 108 minutes. Missing even a small part of the film can result in difficulty understanding the subsequent storyline. Fortunately, the movie compensates with numerous scenes featuring dramatic cinematography and soft musical accompaniments that help mask the rapid pace of the narrative. One notable example is the scene where Finch and Violet dance together beside the car. This scene effectively touches the audience by portraying their expressions of happiness as they dance together. The classical music soundtrack, coupled with the absence of dialogue, creates the impression that time stands still in their world.

There is beauty in unexpected places, there are bright spots even in dark times” is one of my favorite quotes from this film. It emphasizes that even seemingly bleak places can become beautiful when we take the time to notice. The movie teaches us how to overcome adversity: by having the presence of supportive loved ones and openly sharing and addressing issues.

Thank you for journeying your time through these words. If you’d like to show support, you can leave a tip below (next to the subscribe button) or you can buy me a coffee here. Wishing you safety and warmth!

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chel writes
Counter Arts

write articles and personal thoughts. publish drafts regularly. sometimes in english or indonesian :)