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“Midnight Sun” revisits the disease-driven romance flick

Bella Thorne, above, stars in the new romantic movie “Midnight Sun.” ALIEN_ARTFICACT/FLICKR VIA CC BY SA 2.0

If you’re looking for a cliche, disease-driven romance flick, “Midnight Sun” is a solid choice for a girls night out.

Released on March 23, “Midnight Sun” stars former Disney Channel actress, Bella Thorne, as Katie Price. Price is a 17-year-old with a rare disease, xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), that prevents her from being exposed to sunlight without deadly consequences. Because of this, Katie is stuck at home when the sun is out, with few companions other than her dad, played by Rob Riggle, and best friend Morgan, played by Quinn Shephard.

Katie’s life takes a turn in the first half hour of the movie when she decides to go to the train station to play her deceased mother’s guitar, which was a graduation present from her father. Charlie Reed, a popular jock played by Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold Schwarzenegger, just happens to be getting off the train — the meet-cute transition into your typical high school love story. There’s the girl who loves the jock for who he is on the inside and the jock who sees past the girl’s flaws. The couple is shy and a little awkward, but then see they are exactly alike and fall for each other instantly.

Love at first sight may be cute, but the boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love plot line is getting old. The movie’s particular plot isn’t original either — it is based on a Japanese movie with the same title that was made more than a decade ago. The plot, however, does earn points for using XP as the disease that Katie has rather than cancer, which seems to have become a fashionable plot accessory in famous romances like as “A Walk to Remember” and “The Fault in Our Stars.”

Although I give credit for the attempted originality, it was disappointing that the movie presented the disease inaccurately. The director does not correctly portraying XP’s serious consequences, and does not even reveal it is a real disease until the end credits. If you Google the disease, you see excruciating images of victims with bumpy, rocky skin or their skin literally falling off their face. Meanwhile, Thorne’s skin is clear as can be and pale throughout the movie. Because the symptoms were not portrayed dramatically until the climax of the story, the impression was given that XP was made up to fit the story. In a climactic scene, Katie is out with Charlie until morning, and because Katie never tells Charlie about her disease, he doesn’t know the consequences of her sun exposure. When Katie is exposed to the sun for about one second, her doctor concludes she will eventually die in a short time coming.

Director Scott Speer made a career directing music videos before taking the helm of one of the sequels in the “Step Up” dance drama series. “Midnight Sun” is Speer’s second go at directing a feature film, and it shows with his handling of the disease as a plot tool.

However, Speer’s experience with directing music videos helps the film’s most empowering scenes. Speer showcases Thorne’s talented vocals with songs that triggered tears in the audience. Music is central to the film’s arc. At the start, Katie is a young child learning how to play guitar and then, in the film’s finale, you hear her original song on the radio.

“Midnight Sun” achieved what it set out to achieve: a solid, cliche love story that is meant to enthrall the audience with Charlie’s dreaminess and bring tears to teenage girls’ eyes. Inaccurately depicting XP is disappointing, but does not entirely detract from the film’s experience.

Maybe next time, instead of reusing the same tropes of the cliche teen romance tearjerker, another director will try something different.

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