(director: Scott Speer; screenwriters: Oneal Sharma/Andre Case/story by Case; cinematographers: Mark Dobrescu/Frank Borin; editor: Sean Valla; music: Nik Freitas/Todd Bryanton; cast: Ian Tracey (Richard), Catherine Lough Haggquist (Helen), Nicholas Hamilton (Chris), Alexandra Shipp (Riley), DeRon Horton (Jordan), Famke Janssen (Chris’s mother, Lee), Barbara Meier (Teri), Eddie Ramos (Nate), Zoë Belkin (Julia), Aaron Pearl (Chris’s Father), Patrick Gilmore (Detective Jenkins); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gabriela Bacher/Kevin DeWalt/Sean Finegan/Basil Iwanyk/Erica Lee; Quiver Distribution; 2020)
“The only thing that seems to work in this sappy romance is how sappy it is.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A supernatural teen love story directed by Scott Speer (“I Still See You”/”Step Up Revolution”) that rings hollow. Its message is about learning how to let go and move on from tragedy. The only thing that seems to work in this sappy romance is how sappy it is. But no matter how ridiculous it gets, it manages to keep you caring about the stricken lovers who are both likeable. The fantasy film is set in the Pacific Northwest (but shot in Canada).
After graduating high school Chris (Nicholas Hamilton, Aussie actor) dies in a traffic accident and his wealthy high school senior girlfriend Riley (Alexandra Shipp) blames herself for letting him drink too much at the party they attended and she had to drive him home in his friend’s old car. There’s an unneeded subplot about a police detective (Patrick Gilmore) trying to get Riley charged with manslaughter.
Both of Riley’s parents (Ian Tracey and Catherine Lough Haggquist) are lawyers, and they plan for their daughter to follow in their footsteps, but she’s encouraged by Chris to follow through on her artistic aspiration. But Riley’s parents have arranged for her to attend their alma matter of Georgetown and then onto law school, while Chris has no great prospects but is interested in being a motorcycle mechanic.
Riley strangely feels Chris’ presence as a ghostly figure and connects with him in the ethereal light. Though no passion comes through, Riley thinks she’s made a serious connection. It results in some health problems: coughing up blood, becoming frail and rings forming around her eyes.
Her best friend Julia (Zoë Belkin) and his best pal Nate (Eddie Ramos) also mourn his untimely death and feel bad how poorly Riley is dealing with her loss.
Also grieving heavily over her son’s loss is Lee (Famke Janssen), Chris’ single mom. Meanwhile her boy meets hostile ghosts in the limbo state, but also a friendly one named Jordan (DeRon Horton) who gives him some sound advice. He convinces Chris being dead is not so bad and that relieves a lot of his misery.
Though Riley’s folks come across as good parents, they seem to be only confusing her more with their demands and taking too lightly her artist ambitions.
The awkward popcorn script by Andre Case and Oneil Sharma has no bad people, as all are trying to do what they think is best. In the end, it also lacks any real emotion and raises the question of what’s the best way of dealing with this heart-breaking loss. The obvious answer is forget about all this ghost hokum and get on with life. But if we did that we wouldn’t have this crappy film.
REVIEWED ON 8/19/2020 GRADE: C –