'Midnight Sun' Is A By-The-Numbers Young Adult Tragedy, And Doesn't Pretend To Be Anything More

By James Jay Edwards
Released: March 23, 2018
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A 17-year-old girl suffers from a condition that prevents her from being out in the sunlight.

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Film Review
It's not just horror movies that get remade. Even young adult foreign films can be rebooted. Case in point: Midnight Sun.

Midnight Sun is about a young girl named Katie Price (The DUFF's Bella Thorne) who suffers from a disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, XP for short, which affects her body's ability to repair the damage caused by UV light. Basically, she can't go out into the sunlight. So, she spends her days in her room under the watchful eye of her father (Rob Riggle from Larry Crowne), staring down through protective windows at a boy named Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger from Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) who she has had a crush on for years. She spends her nights playing her guitar at the train station, and one night, Charlie is there and she meets him. They begin an awkward friendship that turns into a budding romance, but their love seems doomed, because sooner or later, Katie is going to have to tell Charlie why she can't ever go out during the day.

Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger in MIDNIGHT SUN. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel, courtesy Open Road Films.

Adapted from a 2006 Japanese movie of the same name by first-time screenwriter Eric Kirsten and directed by music video filmmaker Scott Speer, Midnight Sun checks all of the boxes for a young adult tearjerker. Young girl with a terminal disease? Check. Overprotective father? Check. Boy who loves her anyway? Check. Sounding board friend who explains everything? Check (played here by Quinn Shephard from "Hostages"). Hip alternative music soundtrack? Check. Opening and closing voiceover monologue from doomed girl? Check. Midnight Sun has it all.

It's actually a bit too by-the-numbers. From the start, all of the plot points are predictable, many to the point of being improbable. Of course, the audience knows that the romance is doomed from the start, but they also know that Charlie and Katie are going to make the most of their time together, even if it has to be after-hours. It's the typical sterile tale of star-crossed teenage lovers, not quite as tragic as Romeo and Juliet, but close.

Patrick Schwarzenegger in MIDNIGHT SUN. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel, courtesy Open Road Films.

None of this means that it's not effective. Midnight Sun may check all of the stereotypical boxes, but it does it very well, simultaneously tugging at the heartstrings and tickling the funny bone. It's an all-too familiar tale, but it's one that is told well, and just because you've heard the story before doesn't mean that you can't shed a tear for it.

Midnight Sun is what it is, and doesn't try to be anything more. There's nothing inventive or groundbreaking about it. Hell, it's a remake of a twelve year old movie. But it does what it does well, and keeps the audience's gaze for the entirety of its brisk 91 minute running time, and that's more than can be said for some movies. Sure, it's contrived, pandering, and saccharine-sweet, but that's the whole point of it. It feels good by feeling bad.

Patrick Schwarzenegger and Bella Thorne in MIDNIGHT SUN. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel, courtesy Open Road Films.
Like any self-respecting young adult movie, the soundtrack to Midnight Sun is full of hip and cool tunes. Because Katie is a musician, many of the songs in the movie are hers, and they are actually performed by Bella Thorne herself, which is a nice change from the ghost singing that usually accompanies movies like this. The emotional singles "Burn So Bright" and "Walk With Me" will be on infinite repeat in the earbuds of tweens everywhere this spring. The soundtrack is rounded out by some pop candy from artists like Mia Wray, Adriel, Waters, and White Sea, plus a suitably cinematic score from film composer/Bright Eyes band member Nate Walcott (The Fault in Our Stars - speaking of checking all the boxes). But the standouts, the songs that get the biggest emotional reaction from the listener, are the Katie/Bella tunes.

Bella Thorne in MIDNIGHT SUN. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel, courtesy Open Road Films.

Drama, Romance
Release Date
March 23, 2018
MPAA Rating
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score