New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: MOVIE REVIEW: Then Came You

(Image: deadline.com)

(Image: deadline.com)

THEN CAME YOU—3 STARS

Two traits this very writer has come to appreciate observing in acting are the dueling directions of personality and earnestness. No matter if it’s a blockbuster or a micro-budget indie, a good performer can exudes those two qualities in engaging characterizations above merely the acts being required. Whether portraying the charisma of personality or the solemnity of earnestness, the actor has to have and bring some of their own. They can’t entirely be faked.

Peter Hutchings’ comedy Then Came You presents romance entangled by terminal illness. That topic seeped in gallows humor is far from new territory, meaning this is not a very deep film. Then Came You doesn’t have to be a message-thumping torchbearer for anything. Instead, it is squarely comfortable with its pile of pluck and parade of quirks. There’s a place for an easy film like this. Why? Look no further than those qualities of personality and earnestness. Everything difficult and rough is softened by cheeky and easy charm.

Game of Thrones regular Maisie Williams is Skye, a young twenty-something British import to upstate eastern New York. Loose and loud with her attitude and personal style, the extrovert is of the “you win some, you lose some” thinking about her terminal cancer diagnosis while her parents (Sonya Walger and Colin Moss) brace for the worst. She aims to be a hoot, albeit a self-destructive one, to anyone she meets. Not everyone can handle that.

One such person is the frazzled daydreamer Calvin, played by Hugo’s matured Asa Butterfield. He’s the youngest of a family of airport workers with his dad (David Koechner) and older brother (Tyler Hoechlin) where he pines for beautiful flight attendant (Nina Dobrev) a little older than him. More than that, Calvin is an uncomfortably withdrawn hypochondriac who hides his soulfulness and true talents. Feeding a little of his own misery, he sits in on a cancer support meeting and meets the whirlwind that is Skye.

LESSON #1: MISERY DOESN’T ALWAYS LOVE COMPANY — Contrary to the popular phrase, most of Skye’s social circle does not reciprocate her openness for fun and friendship. They’re afraid of the finality. Calvin’s neurocies initially cannot handle Skye’s daft spirit. He is colossally uncomfortable when she becomes a tagalong clinger around town.

LESSON #2: DO SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER DONE BEFORE — Skye targets Calvin as a line item on her ‘to-die list.” She lassoes his curiousness and taps into his kind heart by dragging him along as a partner-in-crime (literally when they run into a sympathetic look-the-other-way local cop played with gusto by Ken Jeong) for her zany list of achievements and experiences. Slowly but surely, Skye’s zeal disarms Calvin. She gains a friend and he gains confidence.

LESSON #3: DO THE THINGS YOU NEED TO DO — As the two become inseparable, the limits of Skye’s future looms. The enviable joy for a little healthy self-destructive gives way to the grim reality. Their growth evolves past the fun stuff to the final affairs everyone and anyone needs in order when it comes to honesty and the important relationships of one’s life.

Call Then Came You a cynic’s nightmare playground and an optimist’s floral garden. That’s too damn bad for the former more works than doesn’t. Written by Irish TV soap specialist Fergal Rock, plenty is plucky for plucky’s sake. The coffee shop acoustic soundtrack, while fitting, overly telegraphs mood. The aerial establishing shots are redundantly sunny. Merging morbidity to that kind of tone would normally sour smiles in similar situations. However, the lightly soulful themes of connection and thoughtfulness really shine and save this little amiable pleaser.

Contrivances and coinkydinks are curved by character layers of genuine care expressed by Williams and Butterfield and the people they encounter. If all you’ve seen of Maisie Williams are her shades of bleak on Game of Thrones, come see her flourish with welcome nutty personality. Paired with her is Asa Butterfield, an actor who has slowly carved out his own niche of true and solid earnestness across The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Ender’s Game, The Space Between Us, and more. Putting those two soon-to-be-22-year-olds together becomes a simple and sumptuous treat. The sweet spot created by these lessons and actors that play them out is where personality and earnestness win for Then Came You.

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#763)

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#763)

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