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“Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between” Review: Sappy Netflix Original

“Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between” Review: Sappy Netflix Original

Adapted from the novel by Jennifer E. Smith, director Michael Lewens captures “Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between” adolescent interactions and intelligence through an empathic lens. But even if this Netflix original does not condescend to its targeted teen audience, it fails to overcome fundamental problems of narrative credulity and predictable results.

The story centers on two modern teenagers who enter into a 10-month-long dating compact as a mandatory starting romance, and agree to break up the night before they go to college. But would real teens behave this way? Or do the adult creators pass on their own ideas to teenagers?

The cautious senior school Clare (Talia Ryder) thinks she is risk-averse. All the moving when she was young, due to her parents’ divorce, made her dive head first into the textbooks. Determined not to be distracted by boys or friendships, she concentrated instead on securing a bright future at a good college.

But Clare’s world changes when she is dragged by her encouraging bestie Stella (Ayo Edebiri) to her first Halloween party, and meets Aidan (Jordan Fisher) in the process. The couple share an immediate connection, do witty small talk, flirt through crowds of classmates and spend the evening chatting on a nearby playground – a symbol of leaving childish things behind.

Not so fast though. Before leaving, Clare naively proposes a risky deal for the rest of the school year, with a pure breakup the night before leaving for college. Aidan agrees and ignores any hints of complications that may occur when their final date.

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A whirlwind courtship ensues, shown in a fast-paced montage with large blue-green title cards announcing each month that crosses the parade of milestones in the couple’s thriving romance, from their first date to their first “I love you”. Then, as soon as it begins, their relationship comes to an agreement, with friends and family rightly questioning their unwise and changeable decision to divorce.

But for as much as Clare and Aidan let personal fear lead their union to the intended end, the duo struggles at the same time letting go of the love of their (young) lives, confronting their individual faults and weaknesses in order to develop and grow. Still, it is the couple’s withdrawal from their past in the last hours together that will ultimately reshape their future.

It’s pretty obvious in a few minutes after clicking on games that there will be a big problem in Clare and Aidan’s plan, whether those watching are hopeless romantics or totally cynical. Love is an unstoppable, uncontrollable force, and everyone of all ages knows this, even if the main characters do not. The material does not do much to undermine our expectations, nor does it surprise us when the inevitable twists and turns occur. Although screenwriters Amy Reed and Ben York Jones do not give in to any incongruent, romcom-like shenanigans, they also do not make the main characters’ reasoning sound viable. Teenage viewers caught between adolescent longings and their impending adulthood can probably relate to the riddles of these characters, but the set-up seems suspicious as the audience probably knows better than these two inexperienced souls.

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That said, filmmakers are focusing on other areas of Smith’s source material. LBGT representation is handled tenderly and gets a complete and quite sweet bow with Stella’s journey, as she worries if her infatuated Tess (Djouliet Amara) would reciprocate the same feelings. Steve (Nico Hiraga), Aidan’s slacker best friend next door, is used not only as a comic relief, but also as a catalyst to help Aidan and Clare come to obvious revelations.

Lewen, editor Joe Landauer and cinematographer Bryce Fortner find a fast-paced rhythm and tonally appealing aesthetic, which evokes a sense of buoyancy and grounded realism at the same time. Music tutors Lindsay Wolfington and Laura Webb’s soundtrack choices also help flow emotions without being intrusive, while complementing Mike Tuccillo’s score.

The second part of the magic that is created comes thanks to the main characters’ pitch-perfect achievements. They share a crackling chemistry from start to finish. Ryder is brilliant, and deftly guides us through some of the more difficult, tangled aspects of grace, sensitivity, and life. Fisher is gentle, delivering nuanced work during subtle, vulnerable moments (a small handful to enhance the film’s dull nature). Borrowing his voice for a re-arranged cover of The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout”, as well as the original song “Everything I Ever Wanted” at the end, adds to his charm.

Teenagers are not stupid, and to expect them to accept two college-bound protagonists who are as naive as these is disappointing, especially given the authenticity that is being tried. By letting these dwarf parrots ironically make the mistakes they were actively trying to avoid, the conflict feels forced and blunt. And it may make the audience want to say goodbye to this faster than the already short driving time allows.

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