Sparks instantly fly when Clare (Talia Ryder) and Aidan (Jordan Fisher) meet at a rowdy high school party. They share somber secrets, recreate childhood bliss on a playground swing set and even have a magical first kiss. There’s one problem, though. They are about to head to college, and Clare wants to have a true hot girl freshman fall. So they do what any normal couple would do: Form a breakup pact for the day before they depart for college. What could possibly go wrong?
The bulk of Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, Michael Lewen’s directorial debut based on Jennifer E. Smith’s young adult novel of the same name, takes place on the night of Clare and Aidan’s final date. Over the course of the evening, Aidan plots for them to relive all of their special moments: Their meet-cute, the time Clare catapulted off the back of a boat, the prom that they missed—the list goes on. Clare is confident that the break will be more-or-less clean; she loves Aidan, but her parents were high-school sweethearts and, as she reminds us around 30 times over the course of the film, their relationship didn’t work out. Aidan, on the other hand, secretly believes that his carefully crafted night-long trip down memory lane will convince Clare to do long distance. Again, what could possibly go wrong?
The next 70 minutes or so compose an over-produced, over-lit film with big, immaculate setpieces and even bigger melodramatic fights. Everything in the camera’s view is carefully constructed—from the glass structure in the empty high school that is somehow perfectly lit, to the unsuspecting pizza joint bathed in dazzling golden light. While it definitely doesn’t seem like these chaotic teens should be doing their chaotic teen things against such a flawless backdrop, it doesn’t do too much damage to the film. Sadly, though, the screenplay, written by Ben York Jones and Amy Reed, is similarly overdone. While Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between boasts a solid premise (Who doesn’t want to see two charismatic teens embark on a breakup date?) there is no way in hell anyone could sit down and not predict how the thing is going to play out.
Jones and Reed don’t give their characters the necessary breathing room to find their endings on their own. From the start, Aidan is dead-set on getting Clare back at whatever cost, and his tender-eyed, passionate demeanor begs us to ask what director would actually be cruel enough not to give him his fairytale ending. Similarly, Clare’s soft, guarded nature is absolutely begging to be broken down by the right guy. From the moment the two set the pact, there are only two ways the film could end: Tragic and unfulfilling, or heartwarming and satisfying. The script, paired with Lewen’s on-the-nose, theatrical directing, doesn’t leave space for anything in between.
This isn’t for a lack of trying on Ryder and Fisher’s parts, though. Charmingly awkward, rising rom-com star Ryder is hard to look away from. She brings a youthful, kineticism to Clare that makes her one-dimensional character much easier to swallow. Fisher gives it his all, too, and is lovable in his own right. But at the end of the day, Aidan is just a little too desperate to be the compelling character that the film wants him to be. His only real personality trait is that he doesn’t want to break up with Clare—it’s hard to know what to do with that.
The supporting characters don’t get much of a break, either, with the wonderful Ayo Edebiri stuck in the role of the quirky best friend (though she unsurprisingly adds some genuine laughs to the film) and Nico Hiraga once again stuck as the dopey BFF. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that both of these actors deserve much more purpose than the kind of comic relief that leads up to an inevitable, heartfelt, third-act pep talk.
Despite its frustrating predictability, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how sweet Hello, Goodbye really is. Ryder and Fisher have true chemistry, and it’s hard not to root for their relationship. And while the script is so cheesy that the lactose intolerant should stay far away, it does include some poignant messages—such as, for the right person, you don’t have to lose yourself. Ironically, the film could’ve taken that message and tried a little less hard to be like every other rom-com in existence.
Director: Michael Lewen
Writers: Ben York Jones, Amy Reed
Stars: Talia Ryder, Jordan Fisher, Ayo Edebiri, Nico Hiraga, Jennifer Robertson, Patrick Sabongui
Release Date: July 6, 2022 (Netflix)
Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for her latest questionable culture takes.