Love Story, A Walk to Remember, The Fault in Our Stars. There’s something about the doomed teen romance film that audiences crave. They might enjoy a good cathartic sob, or they might enjoy reliving the thrill of first love. Also, these films can launch big careers for their young stars. I don’t see Midnight Sun being remembered as fondly as the aforementioned films, if at all.
Katie Price is a young singer-songwriter about to graduate high school. She has lived her entire life with a rare disease called XP, or Xeroderma pigmentosum, which essentially dooms her to death if she’s exposed to direct sunlight. As a result, she’s only able to go out at night. One evening, she meets Charlie, whom she’s admired from afar for years, and what we have here is a teen love story that becomes a disease-of-the-week Hallmark Channel movie.
First off, this film is for teenagers – the middle school girl who doesn’t know Love Story exists. The target audience might go to this, connect to the characters, and shed a few tears, but I wasn’t buying what they were selling from the very beginning. If you’ve ever seen a film like this, there is no surprise to really be had. Every beat it hits is predictable and painfully forced.
I don’t know exactly what it was, but there’s something off about Bella Thorne’s performance. She’s the effortlessly beautiful, tragic heroine. She’s fine with less demanding scenes but does not feel authentic in big, emotional moments, especially toward the film’s climax. The same can be said for love interest Patrick Schwarzenegger, with whom Thorne doesn’t share much chemistry. I’ve seen actors with less convincing chemistry, but you get the impression these actors were just as uncomfortable with each other off camera as on. They feel stiff, rehearsed, and kind of like they hate each other in real life.
If Midnight Sun can somehow convince those in the medical profession to provide more funding to the study of XP, a real-life disease that affects maybe 1 in 250,000 people, then this film has done a truly terrific thing. Judging by a purely cinematic standpoint, though, this is trash. It’s a trite, corny, predictable, dry-eyed tearjerker that does exactly what you expect it to, and doesn’t have the effect of superior films that do the same thing. It shamelessly begs its audience to shed some tears in the finale. It didn’t work for me, but perhaps the target audience will get more out of it than I did.