Film Review: Midnight Sun

Slick, familiar but affecting romantic tearjerker about the love shared by an injured high-school swimming star and a medically challenged teen is a healthy diversion strictly for susceptible Gen-Z-ers and younger Millennials.
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Midnight Sun, a teen romance yarn directed by Scott Speer and adapted by Eric Kirsten from the Japanese film Song to the Sun, is nice, almost too nice. But can a film be aggressively nice, wholly by-the-numbers and intelligent all in one dose? Considering the spreading nationwide political malaise, “nice” isn’t such a bad prescription. And the filmmakers, working with an attractive, capable cast, do bring it off nicely.

At the romantic heart of this Boies/Schiller Films vehicle (yes, David Boies, the distinguished lawyer once close to the not-so-nice Harvey Weinstein) are 17-year-old Katie Price (Bella Thorne), afflicted with the real-life Xeroderma Pigmentosum disease (XP, which renders a patient’s exposure to the sun fatal) and graduating high-school senior Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), a swimming champ denied a Berkeley scholarship following an injury he sustained as a result of foolish teen behavior.

Katie and Charlie don’t meet cute but very easy indeed. It’s nighttime (the only time Katie is allowed to be outside) and, as a songwriter, she is busking on her guitar at the local train station. Charlie, drawn by the music, finds her and the chemistry between the two is instantaneous. (Katie had the head start: Since they were kids, she regularly watched him going to school from her window.)

At the station, Katie is startled and makes quick excuses to leave but forgets her notebook of songs, which Charlie finds. Back home where she lives with her extremely caring and protective widowed father Jack (Rob Riggle, making a detour into drama from his comedic work), Katie shares her feelings about Charlie with best and only friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard, in a very likeable turn), who schemes to retrieve the notebook and get Katie and Charlie together.

She does and the romance grows as Katie carries the burden of keeping her serious illness from Charlie. The pair grow closer as they do the nighttime teen rituals of partying, taking walks and so much sharing. At the marina, Charlie even shows her the gorgeous sailboat he is tending to for the summer and proposes a daytime trip. There’s no suspense surrounding whether these two are made for each other (they are!) but plenty regarding how Charlie will learn of Katie’s XP and how he’ll react and whether XP might prove to be too clever an adversary. Many of these questions follow one of Katie’s outings with Charlie during which she loses track of time.

The story takes a number of turns, most predicable. And with its interwoven strands of rare love between two sympathetic characters confronting hardship and the rare disease that defies treatment, Midnight Sun impresses as a direct descendant of the 1970 classic Love Story.

The Washington State locations are lovely and production design befits all the niceness. But it’s Thorne and Schwarzenegger who are instrumental in keeping things just short of gooey and corny. Still, the film radiates a degree of squeaky cleanliness and purpose that leans toward faith-based fare. But He doesn’t seem to be present (although, as the saying almost goes, He may be hiding in the details).

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