My mom, who has observed the film industry much longer than I have, often notes how once a film or concept achieves success, Hollywood leeches off it until it’s anemic. For example, Harry Potter divided its source material, The Deathly Hallows, into multiple parts, and The Hunger Games, Twilight and The Hobbit followed suit. As well, Psycho, Total Recall and Willy Wonka have all received the now-classic remake treatment with varying degrees of success.
Knowledgeable filmgoers might practice skepticism when they watch a trailer for a teen love story featuring a girl with a degenerative disease that is not The Fault in Our Stars. This movie, Midnight Sun, released March 23 and filmed in 2015.
Protagonist Katie’s (Bella Thorne) condition xeroderma pigmentosum renders excessive sunlight lethal to her, so she only leaves her house at night to play guitar. She eventually encounters her crush Charlie (Patrick Schwartzenegger), who she has admired from her house for years, and they go on night-time excursions during the summer. However, as her condition worsens, Katie confronts the issue of maintaining an ordinary life with Charlie as well as her well-being.
Before people denounce the film as copying the Fault in Our Stars or even 2017’s Everything, Everything, they should know what actor Patrick Schwarzenegger said when I asked him about what differentiates it from its teen-targeted peers when he was in town during The Arnold. Firstly, he deemed the protagonist’s limiting condition a novel twist.
Schwarzenegger said, “[His character] brings [the protagonist] out of a life of isolation… and gets to see her embark on [a] beautiful journey that she’s never been able to experience.” According to him, the movie is “not just an ordinary love story; it’s one that deals with someone who has this disease, pulling her out of that life, [and] allowing her to see the open world and really have a chance at life.”
Yes, Schwarzenegger will naturally speak favorably of a movie he acts in, but how many have heard of the condition “xp” or seen it incorporated into a love story? Even if the film potentially borrows concepts from The Fault in Our Stars, is it really an issue if it can capitalize on them with a fresh take? Before The Incredibles, there was the incredibly similar Fantastic Four, yet no one seems to mind the former. Furthermore, Everything, Everything adapted its plot from a 2015 book, while Midnight Sun lends credit to a 2006 Japanese film of the same name.
However, the Rotten Tomatoes score sits at 17 percent, and the review below it notes that the film is “unfortunately distinguished by its offensively inaccurate portrayal of a real-life disease.” Still, people should recognize these responses came from critics; audiences gave it a 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.7 on Metacritic. Even 92 percent of Google users liked it (although they didn’t necessarily see it).
Moreover, this criticism supports that the movie at least distinguishes itself. This, in combination with some audience members enjoying it, should bring one to at least consider the film, and students looking for a “cheesy” (in the words of one favorable critic) and potentially emotional experience can keep this one in mind. Do you really want to watch Black Panther for the fifth time, anyways?