I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Ah, it’s another “teen falling in love while dying beautifully” romance. This time around, it’s 18-year-old Katie (Bella Thorne: Ratchet & Clank, The DUFF), who can’t tolerate sunlight; she suffers from something called xeroderma pigmentosum, which people shout about — “She has XP!” — like anyone will know what that means. What it means is that she remains indoors during the day, behind specially tinted glass, and can go out only at nighttime. Homeschooled by her dad (Rob Riggle: 12 Strong, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2) — mom is dead, I guess to reduce the number of characters here — Katie has pined for Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Grown Ups 2) for years, having watched him walk or skateboard past her suburban Seattle house every day of their childhood. Then, on the very night of high-school graduation, when she goes to the train station to play her guitar and sing her sad teenaged-girl songs, to practice performing before an audience, they meet-cute. And summer romance is in the offing.
The cast is perfectly charming, but when it isn’t predictably predictable and predictably sappy, Midnight Sun — based on a 2006 Japanese film of the same name — doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Katie has an approved daytime outing in one scene, and no explanation is offered as to how she is able to do this, or why, if this is possible, she can’t go out during the day on a regular basis. Charlie has absolutely no idea who Katie is: you’d think everyone in town would know about the girl who can’t stand the sun, but he’s totally oblivious. Don’t these people know their neighbors? Anyway, his ignorance about her condition is required in order to gin up some drama in this otherwise conflict-free tale: she keeps putting off telling him, so that she doesn’t become, in his eyes, just a disease. Which is perfectly understandable, but you know where this is going. Maybe this is what Katie’s doctor meant when she told Katie’s dad, “She’s reached that year we talked about”? That Katie would get swept off her feet by a boy and take “her day in the sun” literally? It’s a mystery.
If I were 12 years old again, I’d probably find Charlie just as appealing and dreamy a fantasy boyfriend as Katie does: he’s impossibly perfect, deeply considerate and patient like no teenage boy who has ever existed has actually been. (Physically, Schwarzenegger is unnerving yet fascinating to look at: sometimes he’s a young clone of his dad, Arnie, and then when he turns his head just so, he’s suddenly a young Bobby Kennedy, his great uncle.) What’s not to love? But grownup cynical me cringed at the platitudes and the cornball — yup, “she’s one in a million,” Dad concedes when he is reminded how rare Katie’s illness is — and I also wonder when theft of intellectual property, which figures into the would-be tearjerking finale, got to be romantic.