From the Archives: Midnight Sun review

From the Archives: Midnight Sun review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

There are two types of “teen illness romance” movies out there and I assure you that Midnight Sun is one of them. First you’ve got your Bubble Boy riffs in which the tragically ill teenager finds out that their single parent has been lying to them and they were never sick after all. “It’s just that ever since Mom/Dad died, I could never bear to part with you. You remind me so much of him/her. They would’ve been so proud of you.” The other type is the A Walk to Remember variety where the afflicted youth ultimately succumbs to their disease but before doing so, makes the decision to truly live, which usually means “date a boy.” I won’t tell you which type Midnight Sun is, but I will give you a few pieces of info to see if you can figure it out.

Meet Katie (Bella Thorne). She’s a girl who suffers from a disease called XP. No, she’s not dying due to a lack of experience points, ya dingus! XP is a disease with a name too long for me to wrap my brain around that basically dooms the afflicted with a terrible sun allergy. Katie, much like a Mogwai, must avoid sunlight at all costs. While she won’t sprout gremlins or anything, she will die if even the tiniest amount of sunlight hits her skin. Due to her diagnosis, she has spent her whole life indoors. Ever since her mother died in a car accident its just been Katie and Dad (Rob Riggle), and even though things can be tough, they make it work.

Meet Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), he’s a swimmer who dashed his dreams of an athletic scholarship after sustaining an injury from a drunken escapade. He’s a normal guy, I guess. I don’t know. I was too busy trying to reckon with the idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a kid that is now acting in movies. What a thing.

So one night when Katie is out playing guitar at the train station, as she is wont to do once the sun goes down, she and Charlie meet. Charlie doesn’t know of Katie’s condition, nor is he aware that she’s been watching him skateboard past her window every day for her entire life. It’s an awkward encounter, but when he helps her gather her things their hands touch and now they are hopelessly and forever in love because that’s what the pop-folk singer who purposefully warps her vowels says love is.

I won’t say what happens next, band you don’t care anyway, but let’s look at the evidence. In the Bubble Boy camp we’ve got the following:

  • Single parent
  • Dead parent
  • Isolated teen
  • Disease with symptoms so dire that the sufferer has to take them on faith
  • Multiple scenes with a doctor who asks Dad, “why don’t you bring Katie to these doctor visits? I can’t give her proper care if she’s not actually here!”

In the A Walk to Remember camp we’ve got the following:

  • Terminally ill teen who “just wants to be seen as a person and not a disease!”
  • Hopelessly romantic boy who will stick with anybody through anything because that’s his style even though nobody really understands him because there’s more to life than just partying, man.
  • Multiple scenes with a doctor who, despite never actually spending any on screen time with Katie, seems to truly believe that Katie is indeed sick.

It’s not until later in the movie that the story goes hard down one of these paths, and I will admit that I was unable to predict which way it went until it happened, so I’ll give Midnight Sun that. But that’s it. There’s not much else to go on here. Bella Thorne sings a few tunes, romance (or something that looks generally like it) ensues, and the middle-schoolers that are on their first “date” will go home happy. I don’t know what it is about terminal disease that teenagers find to be so romantic, but alas, it is most definitely a thing, and who am I to stop the fun?

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