Netflix currently seems to have a monopoly over creating generic romances. These romances are like desserts you crave from time to time, an act of indulgence for whatever reason you may prefer. Like desserts, these romances have all the same tropes – heterosexual romance, at least one queer best friend of the protagonist, and some scenic outings; the cherry on top of the cake if the film is about young adults freshly graduating from school. Therefore, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, a directorial debut by Michael Lewen and based on Jennifer E. Smith’s novel by the same name, is like all Netflix romances – spritely, full of heart-warming love, and generic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Clare, played by Talia Ryder, and Aidan, Jordan Fisher, are high-school sweethearts. They have dated for one year of their Senior Year at school and are now headed to two different colleges for pursuing their graduation – Clare to Dartmouth for Political Science and Aidan to a Pre Med school nearby. Before they had entered this relationship, or you may call it a pact, they had sworn to end it before college began so that they step into their new lives with fresh zeal and without any baggage. The film centers itself upon this last specific last date that Aidan organizes on the day before Clare is to leave for Dartmouth. They try to recreate every possible special moment from their one year of dating, but can everything go according to plan when two people are in love? Since we as an audience participate in Clare-Aidan’s journey down memory lane, we get to experience some beautiful moments of friendship shared between the two.
I appreciate the film for trying to stand out in its approach to modern-day dating. In most cases, when adults – cynics, foolish romantics, or people just tired of attempting romance – watch films concerning naïve young adults in love, tend to eye roll. They know every breakup is messy, whether they like it or not. Hence, Clare’s decision may be practical but her announcing themselves as the king and queen of ending things makes her a stupid teen. This certainly works to the plot’s advantage here, and I am somewhere very glad the film doesn’t try to make us think otherwise despite how everyone around Clare and Aidan terms them as madcaps for trying to end a beautiful relationship.
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The film hinges on this dilemma without making it compelling enough to keep you engrossed. It is certainly a difficult call for young adults to make, and I am glad that pop culture is helping normalize this dilemma in recent times. Sadly, the film doesn’t give us solid reasons for its belief in practical wisdom. For example, Normal People (2020), a drama series directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald and adapted from Sally Rooney’s book by the same name, has perfected this understanding of the young-adult generation.
My favorite part about this film is that the two young adults are visibly distressed during the entire date. They are hurting, and in a few fleeting moments, it shows on their faces. Kudos to the acting of Ryder and especially Fisher for bringing this sadness out so perfectly into their characters. The characters of Aidan and Clare, however, could have been better written. Although it is imperative to show why their weaknesses make them, it would also do good to know about their strengths in greater detail. The intimacy between these characters really helps the film float, especially when we enter into their memories from the day when Aidan first confessed his love for Clare. Besides, I don’t think I have ever seen a lead couple in a film has their first fight over farting. The characters of the protagonists’ best friends, Stella (played by Ayo Edebiri) and Scotty (played by Nico Hiraga), are paid the least bit of attention to and never end up utilizing them to their capacities in the course of the plot. In fact, it is at its weakest in terms of these best friend caricatures.
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between is all things sugary sweet, the perfect dessert for when you want to feel a little warm on tired and sad days. It can well be your companion if you want to Netflix and chill with your friends or partner. It is everything we have always seen in romances – love, friendship, good music, some fighting, and some making up. It is generic, but like I said – not that there’s anything wrong with that. You can stream it now on Netflix!