FIRST LOOK: You Can't Help Getting Teary at the Tweaked Spin on the Doomed Romance of "Midnight Sun"

Updated 1 year ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK:  You Can't Help  Getting Teary at the Tweaked Spin on the Doomed Romance of "Midnight Sun"

Anyone remember.... "what can you say about a 24 year old who died. That she was beautiful and brilliant ... loved Bach, Beethoven , the Beatles.....?"

"Midnight Sun" turns 24 back about seven years, tosses the  cancer prognosis  (you never hear the 'C' word though Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) caused by ultraviolet light on DNA damaged genes)  , and attempts to mute some tears with uplifting music. There's solid tweaks to the "weeper" format, but tissues needed or not, I can't escape at least one predictable adjective (others like cheesy have been written) and its undeniably sentimental. Still, one real dad in attendance admitted his tears. 

Bella ("The Duff," "Babysitter," "Blended") Thorne plays Katie, a disease induced "vampire." who cannot go out in the sunlight. From  the time she was born the woman has been kept inside looking at the world and especially class athlete Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) through especially tinted windows. Home-schooled by her photographer dad Jack (Rob Riggle from "Modern Family" and "How to be a Latin Lover"), the teen has not been to the beach, a park, or watched a sunset. 

Charlie has been walking, skate boarding or running past her house from first grade to graduation. Now, a victim of a scholarship costing  swimming injury , a lost book of song lyrics bring Charlie and Katie face to face.

FIRST LOOK:  You Can't Help  Getting Teary at the Tweaked Spin on the Doomed Romance of "Midnight Sun"

You know the teen summer romance score. Usually, a sheltered gal falls for a hunk who initiates intimacy and breaks her heart. 

Not here.

When I said "tweaks," this is one of them. There's no injection of first love intimacy of the explicit kind. They do not get drunk. They do not do drugs. They have their underwear on when catching a moonlight swim.

Tweak #2: Dad's usually are written away. Mom's in charge of navigating the health crisis. Here, mom died soon after Katie's birth --- the film opens with her narrating a dream about listening to her mom play guitar and sing to her on the beach. 

Jack's a perfect father. He's put his life on hold to take exquisitely overly protective (rightly so) of his daughter. He's also sensitive to her 'growing up' with respect to reasonable accommodations when Charlie goes from clockwork passer by to respectfully falling head over heels for Katie.

Director Scott (Step Up Revolution) Speer has remade the 2006 Japanese film, "Taiyô no uta" a.k.a. "A Song to the Sun"/ "Midnight Sun" with American actors. Give him credit for coaxing chemistry from the leads and intertwining generations. The disease is more common in Asia, still, the doctor lightly rebuking him for not bring his daughter to daylight hospital appointments seems misplaced. Same for the conclusion; it could use a tweak, spin or ... I'll refrain from a spoiling analysis.

During an interview Thorne has been quoted as stating:

"I think the best advice came from Drew Barrymore, about always finding love in everything you do and keeping a positive attitude and being thankful."

Bella played the pretty girl bully in "The Duff," so this is a contrast for her. Same with Netflix "The Babysitter," both of whom have a McG/Mary Viola ("We Are Marshall") production credits. She's a spokesperson to stop bullying having endured it lifelong.

The 'positive attitude' mentioned by Thorne is what separates "Midnight Sun" from most of its genre --- the music lyrics and characters stay upbeat.

Katie has only one girl friend through her early life. She has a routine of taking a guitar out to the train station at night and singing her original songs till her curfew. She's has a "vampire" nickname.

One wonders, if the disease here stigmatized --- she does not want Charles to know to allow her a few days of normalcy --- had been embraced, a network of young people and adults would have empowered the family in a way that the physician of "Lars and the Real Girl," encouraged church members to accept an emotionally frail man' delusion. Going a step further, the overdose plague encompassing the nation has swells of unsympathetic  addicted criminal outlooks versus  compassionate treatment of a disease.

And it spews into Huntington realization at unexpected moments. Munching at Taco Bell, I encountered a friend's relative grieving from losing a significant person to OD. Negating a briefly overheard discussion of a jailed drug user, we overheard more grief in Wal Mart's aisles. I've written it; I've read it, but the random proximity of these conversations struck and underscored ... these are people too even if seizing in the street , parking lot or restroom.  

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