“Midnight Sun” (PG-13, 1:31) is a romantic drama about a teenage girl who suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, or XP, a rare genetic disorder which renders those afflicted prone to serious medical complications when exposed to sunlight. The film is directed by Scott Speer (helmer of the 2012 and 2014 “Step Up” movies) & written by Kenji Brando, based on the 2006 Japanese film of the same name.
Often playing mean girls, actress and singer Bella Thorne this time gets to play a more sympathetic character, Katie Price, a 17-year-old with such a severe case of XP that even minimal exposure to the sun could be deadly. Consequently, she spends all of the daylight hours behind specially-tinted windows in her house with her single dad (Rob Riggle, shedding his usual comedic persona for another dramatic role). Besides her dad, Katie’s only friend is a fellow teenager named Morgan (Quinn Shepherd) who one day knocked on the door to play with the mysterious girl who never came outside… and never stopped coming around. Katie stays upbeat and makes the most of her life, such as it is, but she does wish she had at least one more friend, a boy named Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger, establishing himself as more than just Arnold’s son), whom Katie longingly watched pass by her house for the past 10 years.
Having been homeschooled by her dad, Katie is treated to a private graduation ceremony (at home, of course) on the same day that her peers graduate and he lets her indulge in one of her favorite hobbies, playing her guitar and singing on the platform of her local Seattle-area train station. There she finds herself face-to-face with Charlie for the first time and she kind of freaks out. Charlie is charmed by her awkwardness (and attracted to her natural beauty), so he pursues her until she agrees to go on a date with him. Although she insists on only meeting him at night – and one date turns into several – she struggles with when and how to tell him about her condition… knowing he’ll find out sooner or later.
“Midnight Sun” is similar to 2017’s “Everything Everything”, but the latter was a little better. It’s a miracle Katie wasn’t morbidly obese by the second act, considering all the scenery chewing Thorne did early in this film. However, once Katie and Charlie become a couple, most of the rest of the story is fairly touching, although the plot points often feel contrived. Unfortunately, Thorne seems made up and dressed to look like fellow 20-something actress Zoey Deutch, who is more talented and more beautiful than Thorne. The latter plays vulnerable and sympathetic very well, but stumbles when she’s trying to act awkward or comedic. Her great singing voice (an important part of her character) and her performance as a girl being romanced by her dream boyfriend mostly redeems her… if the initial overacting hasn’t made you stop watching… and if you can get past the emotionally manipulative plot. “C”