“Midnight Sun,” “Twilight,” and the Rise of YA Romance Movie

Romanticism is dead. can we blame it dusk? The statement and the question are admittedly a little suspicious; even within the confines of cinema, there are still romantic stories that resonate (wonder woman had one, in the middle of her feminist superhero action story, last year), and the dusk The series is surely overloaded with blame for the relatively simple crimes of pleasing women and, yes, not being particularly good.

But romance as a film genre has seen better days. There’s the fact that studios rarely bother to make rom-coms, having poisoned the well with too many plastic Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl vehicles, then declaring the well poisoned and dooming it. But the romantic drama, which for a time seemed to replace the romantic comedy, could also be in danger. And although its limits are more complicated than the existence of dusk, it can be hard to see past the influence of this five-movie cycle of passivity, stalking, and little things. There’s been the biggest series of supposedly romantic movies since duskthe recent conclusion 50 shades of gray trilogy, which was adapted from a book that began life as self-published dusk fanfic, of course, but there are less direct connections in young adult novels (some real-life adaptations of YA novels, some not) that might not be wide releases without dusk open the way.

so big is dusk‘s influence that this weekend Midnight Sun demands to be seen through that lens despite lacking supernatural elements, or even new YA source material (it’s based on a Japanese film). Seventeen-year-old Katie (Bella Thorne) is a college graduate who has been homeschooled because the outside world is hostile to her: she suffers from XP (Xeroderma Pigmentosum), a rare disease that makes her terribly sensitive to sunlight. Sun. It’s only safe for her to venture outside at night, which is why she spends so much time watching her skateboard smash past her UV-protected window. This crush grows up to be Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), and they meet cute at a train station where Katie goes to sing and play guitar at night.

Given Katie’s aversion to sunlight, the film’s Pacific Northwest setting, and even its title, Midnight Sun (not to be confused with New Moon Where Twilight), looks a lot like reversed gender dusk, with Katie as a de facto vampire reaching out to a beautiful human. If it’s odd to compare a young woman with an illness to a vampire, well, that’s because it is: XP is a rare but very real condition, and the majority of those who suffer from it do not reach adulthood. . Still, in this movie’s world, it looks like a well-cleaned gimmick.

That’s because XP is treated as a kind of big hurdle: that’s why young lovers can’t be together, or at least can’t be together in the same way as other teenage couples. normal. This allows the film to be as vague about Katie and Charlie’s connection as it is about what it reports and what it fakes about Katie’s illness. It’s nothing new for movies to use medical illnesses to elevate their romantic relationships; it wasn’t even remotely new when Nicholas Sparks’ books started hitting cinemas en masse, leaving a trail of tasteful corpses in their wake. Corn Midnight Sun is particularly iffy, with his eyes both in Sparks-level watery territory and his XP sanitization as much as possible, oddly repositioning him as a potential neurological disorder after defining him as a potential cause of cancer (which is more often the case).

Whether or not Bella Thorne suffers from movie cancer isn’t exactly the question. What’s strange Midnight Sun it’s how nearly everything about it is more compelling than its central romance. Katie has a close relationship with her father (Rob Riggle) which, while weighing on the characters politely laughing at each other’s near-occasional jokes, is gentle and not overly melodramatic. And her best friend Morgan is played by Quinn Shephard, who can’t quite transcend her hokey lines but has a presence and spark that at least brings her scenes to life (earlier this year she wrote, directed and acted in his own film, Blame). The barely glimpsed romance between Morgan and her nerdy colleague has more zip than Katie and Charlie’s multi-edited courtship.

This courtship has the innate romance of only taking place under the cover of night, when even a nondescript small town can seem mysterious or glamorous. He needs all the help he can get because Katie and Charlie aren’t particularly interesting people. Charlie has slight strains of this Edward Cullen-Christian Gray dominance in the way he pushes Katie so firmly into accepting his interest in her (his nervousness belies his interest, but he doesn’t know she’s spent her life spy on him!) and overcome his fears of sharing music with others. He even de facto explains the idea that, as someone who spends a lot of time awake at night, she could go see a live concert in nearby Seattle. (It’s mind-boggling that Katie, who stays up late singing, playing guitar, and writing songs and then singing them in public, has apparently never investigated one of the safest possible avenues for that she enjoys the world, and also supposedly suffers from stage fright.)

These are minor issues, but they add up, and the fleeting magic of the film’s first date wears off fast enough that you wonder what it might be like if it featured real adults. Teenage romances have their perks; youthful idealism is a perfect shortcut to starry-eyed romance without any tedious fights like flirting (the slimy joke is great, if you can actually write it, or you don’t have to get Gerard to say it Butler). The recent YA romance that jumps out of the body Everyday had moments that touched on how budding identities can take shape through our early relationships. Midnight Sun contains little information about what it’s like to be young and, despite most scenes from Katie’s point of view, even less about what it’s like to be a teenager with this particular condition ( director and screenwriter are both male). Although it only looks like dusk by and large, this sweet film always turns into something of an emotional vampire, sucking in the sensations before putting your body aside.

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