The great state of Washington has a reputation as being a rather overcast place. Take the Twilight series, for example. In it, a family of vampires moves there to escape from the sun and enjoy the perpetually cloudy climate. And if all you ever knew of Washington was based on Twilight, you’d think the entire state was dark and slightly depressing.
But it’s not. Actually, there’s quite a bit of sun. Which is a problem for 17-year-old Katie Pierce and her father, Jack. You see, Katie was born with the rare skin disease xeroderma pigmentosum, better known as XP. Katie’s skin can’t cope with the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. In fact, in her severe case, even a few bright rays could cause her body to shut down, possibly killing her.
This condition has plagued Katie her entire life. So she lives indoors, sleeps during the day and stays up all night. Once the sun goes down, she hangs out with her best friend, Morgan, and with her dad. Katie also plays guitar and sings. And while this has never been a problem before, she’s a bit older now. In fact, she’s just graduated from high school, and she’s eager to explore the world a bit more. At night, of course.
So on the eve of her high school graduation, Katie takes her deceased mother’s guitar and heads to a local train station to busk. And just when she thinks she’s invisible to the rest of the world, her childhood crush, Charlie—the boy she’s watched from her window every day since she was a kid—walks up to her and asks her out.
Katie’s thrilled. But she doesn’t quite know how to tell Charlie she can’t see him during the daytime. And so she must now decide if she’ll tell Charlie the truth about her life-threatening condition, or whether she’ll pretend that her condition isn’t really as big a deal as she knows that it is.
Katie and her father, Jack, have a very close relationship. Jack is a protective, loving and kind father who truly wants what is best for his daughter. Accordingly, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure she lives a full life.
To her credit, Katie is also very open with her father. When she tries to lie about going to a party, she feels guilty and admits the truth. When she’s faced with making various decisions, her father is one of the first people she often turns to for advice and comfort.
Later, when Katie begins dating Charlie, she first asks her father for permission and tells Charlie that if he wants to take her on a real date, he too must ask for Jack’s blessing. Jack is quick to vet Charlie, asking him as many questions as he can think of and making sure to set a curfew for his daughter. It’s a significant moment, given that parents aren’t always portrayed in such a healthy, caring way in most teen romances.
Katie also strives to take care of all those around her. She is loyal, kind and loving to those who are most treasured in her life, especially her best friend, Morgan. She even wants to take care of her father, making sure that his life is filled with as much love and joy as he’s shown her. Katie’s also surrounded by people who push one another to live their best life and not give up on their dreams.
For his part, Charlie is also depicted as a young man who’s growing in wisdom. He’s seen the dark side of some of his wild choices. Thus, he no longer wants to live a shallow life, filled with partying, alcohol and casually pursuing pretty girls. Instead, he desires a life and relationships that are deep and meaningful.
Throughout this film, we also see an emphasis on living in the moment and truly learning how to enjoy life, while knowing that people (not material possessions) are what make life worth living.
Couples hold hands, kiss and make out (quite often and sometimes pretty intensely). Katie and Charlie go swimming together, with her in her bra and underwear and him in his boxers. (An underwater shot gives us a close-up of her breasts and his torso). Afterward, they lie with one another under covers, still without much clothing.
Girls wear revealing clothing and show cleavage. Guys are shirtless at a swim meet. Boys and girls dance with one another. Someone jokes about an aphrodisiac. Katie’s father tells her that her mother “was hot.” Elsewhere, another guy is referred to as “super freakin’ hot.” Katie creates an online dating profile for her dad.
We hear that Katie’s mother died when she was young. Someone jokes about a cat dying.
Three uses of the s-word. God’s name is misused seven times. We hear “a–” twice, while “d—” and “h—” are uttered once each.
Wild parties depict teens drinking. We see them playing beer pong and taking body shots. They seem to be drinking both beer and hard liquor.
Due to Katie’s skin condition, she was meanly called “vampire” as a child.
Charlie admits to Katie that he was disqualified from Berkeley’s swim team after he got drunk, jumped off a roof and injured his arm. When Katie stays out far past her allowed curfew, Charlie races her home (rather recklessly).
Katie’s best friend, Morgan, is a good friend in many ways. But she also encourages Katie to be alone with guys, to lie to her father and to push boundaries.
Romances involving teens’ life-threatening conditions seem to be all the rage these days. In just the last few years, we’ve seen The Fault in Our Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Everything, Everything, just to name a few. (And we’re not even going to get into how many Nicholas Sparks’ movies involve someone who dies.)
It’s almost as if teen love isn’t dramatic enough anymore. Now we have to have sick teens falling in love!
Well, it seems to be working.
The screening I saw was packed—packed with young fans of this kind of story and some who weren’t so young. As for me, well, there were moments when I laughed out loud, moments when I cried, moments when I felt an emotional connection with the love story itself. Perhaps it’s just the hopeless romantic in me, but I love a good romantic story—whether the comedic kind or the more dramatic variety, like this one.
In some ways, this was a pretty typical teen romance movie. In other ways, it surprised me a bit.
Like most contemporary romance flicks, teen hormones rage here—including a problematic scene where two adolescents go swimming in their underwear (while the camera watches). We also see some reckless teen partying and hear a bit of language.
Here’s what surprised me about Midnight Sun: Unlike the teens in The Fault in Our Stars and Everything, Everything, Katie and Charlie don’t go all the way. And Katie’s relationship with her caring father is surprisingly nuanced: they value each other and keep lines of communication open, even if Katie does sometimes give into teen temptations to disobey her dad.
Midnight Sun isn’t perfect. There are definitely some issues that need to be navigated here for families with teens who want to see it. But the film also has a winsome side to it as it models bravery, healthy parent-teen relationships and the importance of loving the life you’ve been given.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).