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The script to this film is quite bad. It leans into cliches. It makes some pretty melodramatic and repugnant choices in its third act. It repeats the basic medical issues of cystic fibrosis a lot. The exposition isn't even handle in a clever way. (The main character has a YouTube series about cystic fibrosis). The plotting is thoroughly predictable and if you seen the trailer you know where the film is going. I will say the characterizations of Will, Poe, and Stella work. They each have a starkly different orientation towards cystic fibrosis; Will and Stella end up meeting in the middle of their opposite viewpoints. Yes that is a pretty common structure and boy can you feel the writers reaching for your heart strings. Lastly, I suspect cystic fibrosis is misrepresented in the film. I am really surprised this script got shot.
The direction is a little better but it does nothing but embrace the soap opera tone of the script. In particular I found the cinematography too glossy to really capture the trials of chronic illness. The direction is traditional and risk adverse. Some of that is because of the script but I feel a more daring director would have done more with various conceits in the script. In particular, a few of the dates sequences could have been different than a montage and a pop song on the sound track. (I hated the soundtrack. It was very pop muzak for the most part).
With all of those problems why on Earth am I giving this a positive review? Well it features three of the most well considered and charming performances I have seen in a teen melodrama. Arias as Poe is solid friend character; given Poe's fate Arias' likability and sweetness were very much needed. Sprouse is very tender when Will needs to be. He also captures the free spirited nature of Will with easy charm. He makes a good romantic foil. During the film's big erotic moments Sprouse just oozes sexiness and vulnerability.
But above all Richardson owns this film. She makes Stella a person you care about and the character's quirks feel real. The script saddles her with some of the worst lines but she makes them work. She really leans into her character's physical limitations and the resulting material feels authentic. It is an absolutely winning performance. I don't know if that feature alone is enough to see the film, but it was enough for me to enjoy it on the level it was intended.
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