By Kim Hughes
How you feel about Midnight Sun will depend largely on where you are in life.
Teenage girls will doubtless see the knock-kneed romance at the movie’s core as an aspirational template for, like, soul-mate love! Everyone else will view the young adult drama as a chance to rubberneck Patrick Schwarzenegger, Arnold and Maria’s kid, who is a dead ringer for the old man even without the gap-toothed smile or rippling frame. (For the record, he’s OK but it’s hard to measure thespian substance in a role built on doe-eyed glances).
Both camps will agree that while the film isn’t breaking new ground, it is highly agreeable and lifted by solid performances, notably from protagonist Bella Thorne as beautiful but fragile Katie, who suffers xeroderma pigmentosum, a condition that makes her unable to withstand direct sunlight.
Katie has been coddled by cheery single dad Jack (Rob Riggle) but, as a teenager, her sheltered life inside her home (by day) and outside busking (by night) invariably leads to complications of the romantic kind. Enter Schwarzenegger’s hunky Charlie, a neighbour Katie has been admiring from her bedroom window for eons. Theirs is a deep love made especially urgent initially by Katie’s elusive availability and then, ultimately, by her enveloping sickness.
Nothing in Midnight Sun comes as much of a surprise, its characters sweeter than sweet. Katie and Charlie fall in love, navigate hiccups and them just as everything seems too good to be true… well, it is.
Add in Katie’s sassy BFF Morgan (Quinn Shephard) and her square-peg beau Garver (Nicholas Coombe), Katie’s preternatural ability with a guitar and lyrics, Charlie’s squeaky-clean intentions and Jack’s aw-shucks response to everything and the film scans as gussied-up movie-of-the-week.
But that’s OK. Midnight Sun knows its audience and gives them a fairy-tale tear-jerker worthy of Harlequin. Forewarned is forearmed.
Midnight Sun. Directed by Scott Speer. Starring Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Rob Riggle. Opens wide March 23.