All the Bright Places Parent Guide
Streaming on Netflix: Tackling the difficult issues of teen mental health and suicide, this movie unfortunately mixes too many negative messages with its otherwise uplifting content.
Parent Movie Review
Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) is grieving over the death of her sister when she meets Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), a classmate who others describe as a “freak”. When given a class assignment to find local wonders, the two become close friends. As they work through their own past traumas and scars, they learn to find joy and meaning in even the smallest moments.
All the Bright Places is based on a bestselling novel by Jennifer Niven. I must disclose that I have not read the book, or even heard of it before seeing this movie, therefore I cannot speak to how faithful the film adaptation is, though I’m sure there are many fans already out there already screaming about it.
The first half of this movie I really enjoyed. The characters of Violet and Finch feel relatable and the themes are timely and relevant. Mental health, grief, and suicide are topics that should be discussed and explored with teenagers, and the first half of this film does a really good job with that. At some point along the way, though, those messages get a little mixed up. Any discussion about these particular topics is complicated and difficult, and I feel that there are parts of this movie that could be taken in an unhealthy way. Meaningful connections with other people are an essential part of taking care of our mental health and overcoming trauma but expecting other people to “fix” us is unrealistic and often dangerous. Sadly, the story is often unsuccessful at walking that fine line. Violet opens up and begins to move through her grief through her relationship with Finch as he shows her how to find wonder in everyday life. This, I think, is a successful part of the narrative. However, on the flip side, Finch seems to deteriorate as he gives so much to Violet.
I believe strongly in discussing mental health disorders, suicidal thoughts, and grief: these issues are common for teenagers and they need to know that they’re not alone and help is available. All the Bright Places shows us that suicide has strong ripple effects and hurts those who are left behind. But it also shows that people who didn’t care about you or treated you badly will feel bad and you will become immortalized if you do kill yourself. This romanticizing of suicide is dangerous, especially for the teenagers who are the intended audience of this film.
Overall, this is a complicated issue and I think that there are various points of this production that could be argued as being positive or negative. Personally, I thought the message of finding wonder in the everyday is a powerful and important one. Some of the other messages, however, are ambiguous or even problematic.
The content of this movie is another area where it falls short. In exploring the kind of issues that it does, I think that some profanity might be understandable, but multiple F-bombs seem excessive for a production aimed at teens. The sex scene between Violet and Finch is unnecessary and more explicit than it needs to be. There are no consequences for it, either positive or negative. They sleep together and then never speak of it again, so why have it at all? Netflix has more flexibility with content than traditional theatrical releases, but they don’t seem to realize that “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.
In brief, All the Bright Places is well made and well-acted, though its overall messages and questionable content render it unsuitable for teen audiences.Directed by Brett Haley. Starring Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, and Alexandra Shipp. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release February 28, 2020. Updated May 14, 2020
Watch the trailer for All the Bright Places
All the Bright Places
Rating & Content Info
Why is All the Bright Places rated Not Rated? All the Bright Places is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Two teen boys have a fistfight, no blood or injuries. References to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. An off-screen suicide happens.
Sexual Content: Two teenagers have sex. No nudity is shown but the movements are obvious. A teen couple go swimming together in their underwear.
Profanity: Multiple occurrences of extreme language, as well as many moderate and mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A teenage boy admits to being high. Teenagers at a party are implied to be drinking alcohol.
Page last updated May 14, 2020
All the Bright Places Parents' Guide
At the support group Finch attends, there are teens with a variety of mental illnesses and disorders. What are some of these and how do they affect teenagers?
What are some local resources for teenagers, or anyone affected by mental health concerns, grief, or trauma?
Global: World Helplines (lists hotlines in countries around the world)
USA: Teen Line
Canada: Kids Help Phone
Loved this movie? Try these books…
There are lots of books available for teens struggling with depression and other mental health problems. These don’t replace appropriate medical and psychological care but they can help teens as they deal with their challenges.
Elijah Nealy’s Starving the Depression Gremlin: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Managing Depression for Young People has a long track record of helping young people and the adults who care about them. Also using cognitive behavioral therapy but adding in ideas about mindfulness and commitment therapy is Thinking Good, Feeling Better: a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Adolescents and Young Adults by Paul Stallard.
Mindfulness is often used to help people experiencing depression. Mitch Abblett and Christopher Willard’s Mindfulness for Teen Depression: a Workbook for Improving Your Mood uses mindfulness, positive psychology, meditation, exercise, yoga, and diet to help teens care for themselves.
Written to help teens understand depression, Depression: a Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive by Jacqueline Toner and Claire Freeland, provides information, quizzes, exercises and uses cognitive behavioral principles to help teens develop a concrete plan to improve their mental health.
Finding activities that can excite or motivate a teen with depression can be challenging. Sarah Hamil has written My Feeling Better Workbook: Activities that Help Kids Beat the Blues to help parents and teens come up with empowering activities and emotional skills.
Developing emotional resilience is a big help for teens, whether they are depressed or not. Caren Baruch-Feldman’s The Grit Guide for Teens: a Workbook to Help You Build Perseverance, Self-Control & a Growth Mindset is a guide to developing emotional skills.
The most recent home video release of All the Bright Places movie is February 28, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
The Perks of Being a Wallfloweris a gritty look at teens dealing with mental illness and the challenges of high school.
A thirteen year old faces the challenges of middle school with anxiety, persistence, and hope in Eighth Grade.
A teen with depression is placed in an adult psych ward and receives dubious advice from fellow patients in It’s Kind of a Funny Story.