By: Grace Rose
Amandla Stenberg stars in a new romance film that weaves a tale of young love in the midst of unfair illness. The film utilizes a typical love story trope in which the girl falls in love with the ‘boy next door,’ who is played by relative newcomer, Nick Robinson. This is complicated by the fact that Stenberg’s character, Maddy, has an illness that prevents her from leaving her house. Nevertheless, the film takes her on a journey where she risks everything for love and learns some things about herself along the way.
“The stellar cast performs well together and embodies the story beautifully.”
As a piece of art, the film is visually stunning. The colours are bright and the scenes are dynamic, which contribute well to setting up the worlds of the two main characters. Maddy’s illness requires that she live in a pristine, sterile environment and the film sets that up visually in a way that’s very clear — especially when contrasted with the other locations of the film.
The stellar cast performs well together and embodies the story beautifully. Anika Noni Rose plays Maddy’s mother, who also serves as her primary physician. She plays really well off of Stenberg and the two of them are able to create a strong and believable mother/daughter relationship. Over the course of the film, the performances capture intense emotions through subtle actions which is a difficult task to complete. Genre films can often have over-exaggerated acting, yet this film stays away from that and it serves as a benefit.
However, the story leaves something to be desired. As it utilizes the trips of the romance genre, the film feels predictable, almost as if you’ve seen it before because the story feels so familiar. You know what choices the characters are going to make and there aren’t very many twists and turns — that is until close to the end of the film. The story takes a short, yet slightly unexpected turn close to the end which not only catches your attention, but it actually feels like it saves the story all because you don’t necessarily expect it. Yet despite this turn, the last scene of the movie ends up being as you would predict, which again makes for a lacklustre finish.
It would be remiss to not mention the fact that this film constructs Maddy’s illness or disability as something she has to overcome to live her fullest life. The crux of the story is built around the idea of the bravery and courage it takes to simply live. The main challenge with this is that it can function as a way for able-bodied people to find unnecessary inspiration from her character. While this may not seem like much, for those who are disabled or have chronic illnesses, it can continue to perpetrate harmful ideas that a disability is bad and choosing to exist normally with it is something exceptional. This understanding is a lot more nuanced than most would want to acknowledge while watching it, yet it is still important to consider.
If I had to sum up the film very briefly, I would say that it is certainly enjoyable and would make for a fun night out, but it’s not without its issues. The gorgeous visuals and superb acting save a predictable story from being one that can be completely forgotten and ignored.