Midnight Sun | Scott Speer | March 23, 2018
You’ve heard the sick girl teen romance story before, so I won’t bother recapping the trope for you. That being said, the latest release in the subgenre is Midnight Sun, an American remake of a 2006 Japanese film of the same translated name. One of the more recent precursors it’s being compared to on Twitter is Everything, Everything, which is a bit more of a romantic twist on The Boy in the Bubble (disease-wise, anyway). Midnight Sun, however, focuses more on the genetic disorder Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP for short), which is a severe sunlight sensitivity that can lead to neurological impairments, skin cancer, and worse. It’s not too far off from an aspect of vampire mythos, and given the Washington State setting, there could be a slight comparison to the Twilight films. But that’s neither here nor there.
Midnight Sun centers around Katie Price (Bella Thorne), a homeschooled high school student with XP. She’s been crushing on Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) for years, as he has walked or skateboarded past her house for the better part of a decade, and she channels that crush into songwriting and occasional train station night-busking. Post-graduation beach party, Charlie comes across Katie, who accidentally leaves behind her notebook, and he returns the notebook by way of her best and only friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard), who sets the two up on a date, which leads to more dates and the eventual “time to meet the overprotective dad” (Jack, played by Rob Riggle) moment, as well as the eventual XP reveal … and you can probably guess where the film goes plot and character-wise in the hour-and-a-half runtime.
When it comes to teen romances – especially ones that revolve around the sick protagonist trope – everything seems to blend together. The cast may be interchangeable, along with character traits, the setting, and plot points, but unless a film does something to stick out, it’s just a run-of-the-mill teen romance. Midnight Sun manages to stick out, but just slightly. Rob Riggle’s Jack is overprotective to a point but manages to bring some humor and joy into her life while recognizing his daughter’s independence and need to get out of the house for more than just medical appointments. Bella Thorne, as well, has musical roots from her Disney Channel days that lend to Katie’s musical background, as well as wide-eyed awkwardness and slight innocence that match Katie’s initial slight social awkwardness when it comes to dating. And, of course, there’s the XP angle, which, despite the embellishment, is a little more original than a weakened or nonexistent immune system.
But all in all, Midnight Sun, from Step Up Revolution and Status Update (also starring Rob Riggle) director Scott Speer and first-time writer Eric Kirsten, is just another by-the-book sick protagonist teen romance, slightly buoyed by good cast rapport, musical talent, and a spotlight on a genetic disorder. However, this will likely be overtaken at the box office by the more straightforward and zeitgeist-y teen romance Love, Simon and relegated to the bargain bin or Netflix subgenre.