YA Romance The Tearsmith Plays it Safe

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YA Romance The Tearsmith Plays it Safe

If someone were to compile a comprehensive list of young adult romance genre tropes, it would likely be a spitting image of Netflix’s The Tearsmith. A brooding teen boy with a fierce jawline and a fear of letting anyone get close to him. An innocent teen girl who doesn’t realize how pretty she is. Enemy to lovers storyline. Forbidden love. A love triangle. A strong female lead. The Tearsmith has it all.

Based on Erin Doom’s bestselling 2021 novel of the same name, The Tearsmith follows Nica (Caterina Ferioli), a teen orphan who gets adopted by a pair of do-gooders. There’s one problem, though. Also adopted by the same family is her fellow orphan and sworn enemy: The sullen, tortured, pouty and devastatingly handsome Rigel (Simone Baldasseroni). Will the two ever be able to reconcile their differences? Only time will tell.

The Tearsmith is exactly as predictable as it sounds. The first half of the film adaptation consists almost entirely of scenes between Nica and Rigel where the young man professes his hate for his new “sister”—scenes that are almost identical to one another and will undoubtedly leave you asking “How many times can two people almost kiss?”

Peppered into and in between these scenes is dialogue penned by Eleonora Fiorino and Alessandro Genovesi, the latter of whom also directed the movie. Certain lines seem to almost parody the YA romance genre, including: “Are you brave enough to imagine a fairytale without a wolf?” and “What protects her could become what hurts her the most,” and, regarding a thorn on a rose, “It reminds me even beautiful things can cause pain.” Perhaps such lines were lifted from the book; regardless, they are likely more palatable when you don’t actually have to listen to someone say them and act like they are normal.

I know what you’re thinking: Every young adult film runs rampant with clichés. That’s part of what makes them what they are. And while I wholeheartedly agree, the problem with The Tearsmith’s dialogue is that it lacks imagination. Credit where credit is due, though—The Tearsmith is entertaining in its own wild and unexpected ways. A love triangle creeps its way into the story early on in the film, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t morbidly curious to see how it played out. Similarly, no one can deny a will-they-won’t-they storyline, no matter how predictable it is, and I found myself on the edge of my seat anticipating the film’s inevitable climactic moment. There’s a reason enemies-to-lovers is one of the most tried-and-true arcs of romance storytelling.

Despite being teenagers forced to speak and act like adults, Ferioli is convincing as Nica and pulls off a tough role that mostly consists of reacting to the unpredictable actions of Rigel. Baldasseroni similarly nails the role of Rigel in his own over-the-top way, serving a grandiose and morose dish of Italian Edward Cullen, a parallel bolstered by The Tearsmith’s fantastical gothic aesthetic and conspicuously blue color correction. And, far more than the narrative, the look of The Tearsmith is worth praising. Comprising winding Harry Potter-esque hallways and traditional school uniforms, the production design places us directly into a world where boys who liken themselves to fairytale wolves and cruel headmistresses are totally plausible—for better or for worse. It’s not easy to build a world that feels both genuine and unique, but the question of whether you actually want to spend an hour and 40 minutes in that world is another story.

Young adult films aren’t quite as prevalent as they used to be, but the world is a better place with them in it. Hopefully if they make a second installment in The Tearsmith series, those behind it will dare to step a little further outside of their self-imposed genre restrictions.

Director: Alessandro Genovesi
Writers: Eleonora Fiorini, Alssandro Genovesi
Stars: Caterina Ferioli, Simone Baldasseroni, Alessandro Bedetti, Roberta Rovelli, Orlando Cinque, Sabrina Paravicini
Release Date: April 4, 2024 (Netflix)

Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for her latest questionable culture takes.

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