“Then Came You,” New York-based filmmaker Peter Hutchings’ third feature film, tells a not-quite-tear-jerking tale of terminal illness crossed with a story of friendship; it’s a mishmash of John Green tropes marketed toward the same demographic.
The film revolves around Calvin (Asa Butterfield), a hypochondriac who joins a cancer support group and befriends an eccentric girl named Skye (Maisie Williams). Skye is determined to enlist him to help her carry out a bucket list before she succumbs to terminal cancer. In doing so, she teaches Calvin to confront and overcome his own fears — he even falls in love with a flight attendant. The film addresses the idea of fulfillment in the face of imminent mortality, presented in a manner light enough to allow the audience to both laugh and cry at death.
It was refreshing to see that, despite working with dangerous amounts of cliches from young adult films and rom-coms, the story deals with friendship more than romance or lust.
Coupled with the strong personalities of the main characters and their easy-going teenage attitudes, the story takes on the tried-and-true narrative structure that revolves around checking items off a bucket list. Unfortunately, its execution relied heavily on montage sequences layered with pop music to propel plot development, it was nonetheless still enjoyable.
The main issue of the film is that it tries to do too much and ends up accomplishing almost none of what it sets out to do. For a film that’s quite simple in concept, it has an overtly complex maze of subplots, characters and backgrounds that never manage to fit together cohesively. Calvin’s life at the airport hardly seems relevant other than the forced romance, and Calvin’s family is barely explored, yet supposedly plays a role in alleviating symptoms and personal turmoil.
The film breaks the first rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. We are told that Skye isn’t who she presents herself to be, we are told that Calvin’s condition is becoming better, but the film shows next to nothing relevant to the story’s foundation.
It is clear that the writers and filmmakers had the greatest intentions to make the film work and send a positive message to its young viewership, but the actual execution detracts from the story, which in turn detracts from the power of the message.
It is a shame to see that a film about priorities struggles to find its own. But the fantastic performances of Asa Butterfield and Maisie Williams somewhat redeem this film, making it good for a high school birthday party at best.
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