Style over substance in Sweet Netflix Romance
There’s been an interesting shift recently in romance movies and romantic comedies for teens and young adults. For a time, these movies obsessed over unrequited love and often associated young love with death in a downright bizarre way. The Fault in Our Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Midnight Sun, Five Feet Apart, Everything Everything, The Notebook, The Last Song, and An unforgettable walk is just a brief look at these terminal romance movies. There’s something subtly nefarious about these films, with Justine Smith slyly commenting for The National Post:
Terminal romances are less about love and more about the fetishization of youth – often with female characters whose meaning is only found in how they affect the men in their lives. These films depict love frozen in time, uncorrupted by the trials of long-term monogamy. More than disease, aging is presented as the real threat to love in an adult world constantly portrayed as cynical and corrupt. For women in particular, the conservative expectations these romantic ideals impose are limiting and infantilizing.
Sofia Alvarez takes Netflix on the trip
Thankfully, a new wave of more optimistic, progressive, and less inherently misogynistic young romance films is on the way, starting with The sky is everywhere on Apple TV+ to critically acclaimed and beloved movies To all the boys I’ve loved before. Sofia Alvarez, the writer of the latter film, has now made her directorial debut with the Netflix movie Along the ride, based on Sarah Dessen’s popular novel of the same name. She takes the positive and affirmative themes of her previous scripts and brushes them with a polished style aimed at stimulating all the senses, and in some ways it works really well.
Along the ride follows recent high school graduate Auden (played by Emma Pasarow), who decides to spend the summer before college with her father, stepmother, and new baby stepbrother in a small town by the beach. Auden might be a little socially awkward, but not as much as she thinks. It’s obvious that her parents’ divorce and her bossy, semi-famous mother (played by a perfectly obnoxious Andie MacDowell) have affected her in some way that she continues to repress, so when she meets a 20-year-old equally sullen named Eli (played by Belmont Cameli), they recognize the damage in each other.
There’s an overabundance of romance movies about troubled young people, where two supposed “misfits” (who are actually extremely attractive and charming) face similar issues, turning sadness into a bystander sport and having the looking cute while pouting. While Along the ride isn’t entirely different in that regard and succumbs to similar romance movie clichés, it’s proudly part of a new type of romance movie that isn’t so obsessed with suffering. Eli and Auden aren’t toxic or codependent, and he’s not entirely emotionally unavailable. The characters love each other here, the girls aren’t viciously mean to each other, the boys don’t physically bully weaker guys, and people make room for conversation, and no one “wins” . It’s like an anti-John Hughes aesthetic.
Along For the Ride has a lot of style on little substance
In fact, the little world created by Alvarez is quite idyllic and beautiful, with some scenes straight out of a fantasy movie. — the boy in a tuxedo and the girl in a yellow dress are dancing on the beach, a trendy cafe is hidden behind the walls of a seedy laundromat, a bonfire on the beach provides laughter followed by a late-night swim. Combined with the stylistic direction, Along the ride is almost a symphonic poem dedicated to the fantasy of youth, filled with hope for what coming of age in a better world could be like.
This is largely accomplished by Alvarez’s more dreamy directorial choices. She often drops the sound altogether, wisely in favor of the ethereal score of the great indie-pop group Beach House (their first film score), whose music perfectly accompanies the images of youthful frolics and the ephemeral joy of summer. Music supervisors Jessica Berndt and Jane Abernethy are also heavy hitters in Along the ridecurating an excellent selection of indie and underrated pop-rock musicians from the past decade.
Musical choices and smart needle drops are an integral part of youth media. Since Euphoria for CO, portrayals of teenage and young adult life connect much better to audiences with sounds that appropriately tap into the cultural zeitgeist or present a kind of freshness that transcends typical scores. The indie soundtrack of Along the ride has been one of the best for years – Electrelane, Nilufer Yanya, Cleaners From Venus, No Age, Santigold, Lykke Li, Yumi Zouma, Small Black, Gang of Youths, Girls, The Drums, Yeasayer, Youth Lagoon, Troye Sivan and several more pop up at just the right time, making the perfect summer mixtape for a blustery summer movie.
Cinematographer Luca Del Puppo takes on the challenge of creating images to match the wonderful music. Therefore, the dialogue and the narration matter much less compared to the feeling of certain scenes, and Along the ride becomes like a summer scrapbook, a keepsake montage filled with the kind of sights and sounds that etch their eternal existence in the mind during the impressionable years of youth. The plot and the stakes of the film are ultimately subordinate to it; watching the movie is like enjoying the memories of someone’s best summer, and the way things happen is much nicer than what actually happens.
Coming of age with kindness
In a way, the best coming-of-age movies are often like that. If we look back Dazed and confused, Boyhood, Lady Bird, blue is the hottest color, Diary of a teenager, or Pariah, none of these movies care too much about their plot. Maybe it’s because there aren’t many major dramatic events with people under 20, or because the most formative moments of youth are often universally common and actually quite boring. and predictable (as important as they are). Whatever the reason, a good coming-of-age movie is more about encapsulating the feeling of youth, the transition between childhood and a budding blossoming of maturity.
What’s this Along the ride do good. It captures the mood and tone of that summer between high school and college, in which fear and hope sway, and creates an audio-visual portrait of the power of first things. — first friends, first loves, first jobs, first parties, first disappointments. When the film abandons its style and focuses on substance, it falters a bit, as there’s very little to fall back on. It’s a surprisingly simple story, a skeleton adorned with the skin of a cinematic style, so when the music and the dreamy moments die down, the film is downright anemic.
It’s not the fault of the actors, who do their best with the skeletal scenario. Belmont Cameli is a real star here as Eli, a cyclist who blames himself for a past tragedy but is a nice guy who prefers not to talk about it. He’s almost like a young George Clooney here, or a nicer, less cynical Heath Ledger in 10 things i hate about you; he is very charming and should have a great career ahead of him. Dermot Mulroney and Andie MacDowell are a bit lost, appearing minimal but doing a good job when they do, especially MacDowell. The young actors are quite naturalistic and do well, and everyone comes together to form a very nice and communal whole.
Maybe that’s too nice. Perhaps this idyllic, beautiful summer is a bit too much of a fantasy and a hugely shocking contrast to terminal romance movies like Notebook. Critically, though, it’s probably less destructive to young people and relationships to watch a romance between kind kids than one with dead kids. Along the ridenow on Netflix, is very much alive, especially when it submits to its stylized aesthetic.
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