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All the Bright Places—Is the Book Better Than the Movie?

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The saying goes, "the book is always better than the movie." But how does that hold up for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven? Well, I think the readers may have been onto something with this one.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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All the Bright Places is about our main character Violet, whose sister recently died in a car crash. Crippled with grief, she finds herself standing on the ledge of her school's bell tower and contemplating jumping. Labeled "the freak" of the school, Finch finds her up there and it is unclear to everyone who saves whom in that moment. Throughout their friendship, Violet begins to find herself while Finch begins to lose himself.

I definitely think that both the movie and the book are beautiful explorations of mental illness and grief; however, the book explores these topics in a depth that is just not possible for an hour-and-a-half movie.

One of the key differences between the book and the movie is the absence of Finch's fascination with death. The book is told in alternating perspectives between Violet and Finch, which makes it much easier to explore this topic; however, it really felt missing from the movie. In the book, Finch wonders about how he will die, what it will be like to die, and just death in general. The movie attempts to explore this topic in some scenes—like when Finch is underwater in the bathtub and lake holding his breath almost to the point of passing out. However, this is almost all we get in the movie and the obsessive thoughts that Finch experiences in the book offer some much needed foreshadowing. The book also gives a closer look into Finch's undiagnosed mental illness.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Additionally, in the book, Finch describes his two moods as "awake" and "asleep," which gives the reader insight into the fact that his undiagnosed mental illness is bipolar depression. Finch describes his mania as being "awake" and his depression as being "asleep," which is something we don't really get to see in the movie. The only mention of this in the movie is when Finch brings Violet to the mural where people can write what they want to do before they die. Finch simply writes that before he dies, he wants to "stay awake." Movie watchers don't get enough insight into Finch's feelings to fully understand his illness. The book shows Finch's depressive state in a much clearer way. The movie only shows a montage of Finch missing from events and not answering his phone; it doesn't show the haunting nature of his illness.

While I did enjoy the book better, there are some details that were left out of the movie that seemed to make sense. Since the movie had limited time to work with, it simplified some of the side characters, which I think made the story a bit easier to follow. The movie completely cut out some of Violet and Finch's friends and the plot line with Finch's family, which really simplified the plot.


Ultimately, the movie follows the main plot lines of the book, but the book has more depth. Both the book and the movie delve into mental illness and grief in harrowing, yet realistic ways. However, I would definitely recommend reading the book before seeing the film.

Trigger warnings: suicide, depression, death of a loved one, abuse, etc.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.

 

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