“Midnight Sun”

Bella Thorne stars in new teen-romance film


Bella Thorne stars as Katie Price, a teen afflicted with a rare disease that prevents her from being exposed to sunlight, in the upcoming film "Midnight Sun." (Photo courtesy of Ed Araquel)

The tale of forbidden teen love is far from new. It started with the classic Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet and endures today in countless films.

“If you’ve been in love you resonate with it; if you’re going to be in love, it’s like coming attractions; and if you were in love you remember that time,” said Scott Speer, the director of the upcoming romantic film “Midnight Sun,” which is set to premiere March 23.

“Midnight Sun” found a way to set itself apart from the rest. The film follows the love story between Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Katie (Bella Thorne) as they fall in love. What makes it unique, though, is the twist that that Katie has a rare disease called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) wherein any exposure to sunlight is life threatening.

For the entirety of her life Katie has been stuck inside, forced to watch the world pass by as she sat on the sidelines. But that all changes one fateful night when Katie is busking at a train station and Charlie wanders by. From then on a romance ensues, always under the stars, between two people who were seemingly meant for each other.

“(Katie’s) whole life has been a little bit urgent but it’s also been kind of stop-and-go because she can’t go anywhere,” said Thorne. “For her I feel like as soon as she gets into this love, it’s like the urgency is actually gone now because she’s like ‘I just want to take this in for every bit of it.’”

Patrick Schwarzenegger stars in his first leading role as Charlie in “Midnight Sun.” (Photo courtesy of Ed Araquel)

Conveying true emotion in a film like this can be incredibly daunting for any actor, and it was especially challenging for Schwarzenegger because it is his first leading role. He credits Speer for easing his initial discomfort with some of the film’s heavier scenes and helping to take some of the pressure off being a leading man for the first time.

“One of the challenging aspects was the fact that this was my first thing,” Schwarzenegger said. “When you show up to set for the first time as one of the leads of the film and you have like 40 people around watching, it’s definitely a different weight than a one-week role.”

One of the other standout casting decisions in “Midnight Sun” is having comedian Rob Riggle play Katie’s devoted father. A tangible chemistry between Thorne and Riggle enhances the characters and adds depth to their relationship. Speer explained that he and the film’s producers specifically sought out comedians for the film’s cast because of the unique qualities  he knew they’d bring to the screen.

“Having Bella and Rob work together, I feel like they really got each other,” Speer said. “They both knew how to sit in a scene and make it funny and then knew how to let it organically become something much deeper without it feeling like a manufactured turn into something dramatic.”

The connection Katie has with her father is also what initially drew Thorne to the film.

“I really loved the father-daughter relationship in the movie. That’s what really made me be like ‘I really want to do this,’” Thorne said. “I just felt so connected to Katie because of this relationship that she has with her dad, and I’ve always wanted that.”

As the story within “Midnight Sun” unfolds, music almost functions as a third character within the love story. The film has plenty of scenes where there is little dialogue between characters, allowing  music became the storytelling device instead.

“It’s a universal language so anyone can really watch this movie and understand what our characters are feeling when you’re hearing this soundtrack,” Thorne said.

Even though the exact situation in the film may be  foreign to many viewers, “Midnight Sun” nonetheless speaks to universal truths about love and loss, with music as a major storytelling device to convey that.

“I feel like all of the songs in the movie really serve their function and speak to both Charlie and Katie’s character,” Speer said. “Whenever you can use music, I feel like you can speak to someone in a way that articulation won’t accomplish.”

Speer hopes “Midnight Sun” will be considered on the same level as other modern classic romance films like “A Walk to Remember” and “The Notebook.”

“I love great love stories,” Speer said. “The best part about a good love story is you get swept up in it.”