REVIEW | "All the Bright Places”: a consoling movie with an important message



Rating: 3/5
The Netflix movie “All the Bright Places,” based on Jennifer Niven’s novel and directed by Brett Haley, tells a seldom-told story of two teenagers with undiagnosed mental illnesses caused by traumatic events. Violet is withdrawn and grief-stricken since the loss of her sister, while Finch struggles with erratic rage and uncontrollable dark thoughts. They both spend every day looking for a reason to stay alive, until they meet each other at the edge of a bridge, where Finch saves Violet from jumping off. 
Their anguished lives take a big turn when they become partners for a history project to explore the wonders of Indiana. The audience is brought along their journey of recovery as Finch teaches Violet how to appreciate and embrace the ordinary world again. What she does not realize until it is too late, is that he was not saving himself from drowning into deeper misery.
Though the film attempts to evoke romance while layering issues of grief, suicide and mental illness, its ineptitude to paint an endearing young love is evident. Engaging romance only appears in short moments, each one suspended by a new tragic plot. 
Moreover, orchestral music and faded montages often fill the spaces where character development should be. It leaves the audience puzzled over the direction of the storyline, only to be struck by a sudden, unexpected scenario. 
Nevertheless, the film successfully delivers several important messages to its audience. 
It uncovers the mental vulnerability of teenagers to societal indifference and distress. Even a tough guy like Finch who has—early in his life—witnessed the ugliest of human behaviors, is vulnerable to his insensitive peers who label him as “The freak”. He makes every effort to ditch this label, and to “stay awake” through mechanisms such as scribbling his thoughts on sticky notes and running. He even sacrifices some of his self-esteem when he seeks for help from a support group before ultimately surrendering to his illness. 
The film then encourages the audience to reflect on our ignorance of issues of mental illness. At the end, Violet finds out that her friend, Amanda, who had treated Finch cruelly like the rest of their school, has been wrestling with bulimia. Though she masked her problems in fear that her secret will earn her the same condemnation as Finch did, an honest talk ends up bringing her and Violet closer together. 
Thus, the movie convinces its audience that when we bottle up our feelings, especially grief, depression and trauma, we distance ourselves from getting healed. Only when we begin to open up to other people and talk about our difficulties are we able to move one step closer to the healing process. 
In the end, “All the Bright Places” depicts mental illness with care and empathy. By replacing the typical celebration of pure youth in teen romance movies with a serious portrayal of controversial issues, this progressive film deserves our warm respect. 
Above that, the heartening healing story comforts not just the teenage audience but everyone by reassuring them that it is okay to not always be okay. 
As Violet says, “It’s ok to get lost, as long as you find your way back.”