All The Bright Places | Review

"We do not remember days we remember moments," the line that comes from Violet Markey as she recalls a truth her late-sister shared with her. I remember the moment I finished reading All The Bright Places and feeling as though I left a little piece of my heart within the chapters of Jennifer Niven's beautiful novel. As a nineteen-year-old figuring out how mental health manifested in my own life, All The Bright Places was a formative piece of literature that helped demystify and normalise my own experiences.

A lot of the book's magic lies within the moments between dialogue. It's Niven's playground to share her deep understanding of mental health and what it feels like to be navigating youth. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith have quite the task in divulging the nuance that can often only come from the page. Fanning, having been attached to the project for years before filming, does a remarkable job of capturing Violet's inner turmoil. She is a fantastic and exciting actress, gliding in-and-out of roles in a chameleon-like fashion, with this project as no exception. Although some of the dialogue doesn't necessarily always work in her favour, every line feels like an original thought.

The role of Finch is inherently challenging. Justice Smith is instantly likeable, capturing the effervescence and lust for life that is rooted deep in Finch's soul to near-perfection. From memory, his suffering predominately lived between the lines of Niven's writing but is explored at greater length in this adaptation. Smith had more real estate to show the daily affliction his character experienced, battling who he is versus who he wants the world to think he is. There's a deep complexity to him, which thrives in the book's structure of alternating chapters, moving between both Finch and Violet, but sometimes seems a little lost on screen.

Brett Haley has a wonderfully unique way of capturing compassion, as demonstrated in his 2018 film Hearts Beat Loud. Although this book got published in 2015, its message and characters still speak into 2020 with the constant growth of hateful online attacks rising steadily, and the fateful losses to go alongside them. We are still learning to live in a world that is ever-changing and adapting to a digital age, and though All The Bright Places doesn't explore the realms of social media, the film speaks to the era of #BeKind.

Haley's adaptation feels like devouring those pages once more. Those iconic lines "you are all the colours in one, at full brightness," reminded me of being nineteen and uncertain but feeling like perhaps I would be okay. "The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it's the small things that count," is an exception of which Haley flourishes. From the attention to the iconic sticky-note-covered room to the abandoned rollercoaster wander, he has put every inch of his heart into this film and achieved the same effect Niven curated within her pages.

The world through the eyes of Finch and Violet is a lovely place to live, even when misery threatens to overcome us.

All The Bright Places is live on Netflix from February 28th 2020.

Until next time

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