Early on in Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between, dreamboat teenage boyfriend Aidan (Jordan Fisher) tells his dreamboat teenage girlfriend Clare (Talia Ryder) that they are “the poster children for modern relationships.” That’s not entirely accurate. They’re really the poster children for modern relationships as seen through the tired, candy colored, broadly observed, fantasy lens of low-achieving romantic comedy-dramas featuring teens navigating love’s choppy waters. But at a time when the genre has evolved to encompass Shakespearean riffs like 10 Things I Hate About You, Jane Austen reinventions like Clueless and John Hughes tributes like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, a routine effort like Hello, Goodbye… just doesn’t cut it.
Even the least discriminating and least social media savvy 15-year-old could see through the film’s spotlessly clean world of upper middle-class families and their picture-perfect teen children who have unlimited resources and money and seem like the happiest kids on Earth even when they’re getting their hearts broken. It reduces Hello, Goodbye… to a well-meaning but unconvincing life lesson whose authenticity is too inauthentic and whose inspirational message is too uninspiringly delivered.
It doesn’t help that the movie’s premise, as lifted from Jennifer E. Smith’s 2015 novel of the same name, is a narrative dead end. As a general rule, in film and in life, pre-emptively choosing an end date for your relationship is not good idea. But it’s the main idea here. You see, Aidan and Clare are in high school. We know this because Clare’s bestie Stella helpfully informs us, “We’re in high school.” All three are attending the same suburban house party. We know this because Clare’s bestie Stella helpfully informs us that they’re attending “a suburban house party.” After Aidan and Clare’s karaoke meet-cute, they decide that dating each other when college is just around the corner would be pointless, so they agree to stay together for ten months and then break up.
If this triggers dreams of a surprise ending where Aidan and Clare become Benjamin and Elaine from The Graduate, rejecting society’s expectations and running away together on a bus towards an uncertain future, prepare to be disappointed. Yes, they will go their separate ways. The only question is how will first-time feature director, Michael Lewen, and his writers get us there. The answer is the only mildly intriguing card the film has to play. Lewen blazes through Aidan and Clare’s next ten blissful months in a peppy montage, then we catch up with the happy couple on their pre-ordained breakup day when Aidan has prepared a climatic final date.
Like many (vastly superior) Pixar films, Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between is about finding and embracing your identity. Aidan and Clare’s future plans are carefully chosen for maximum Gen-Z aspiration. Clare has her eye on Political Science at Dartmouth so she can “fight for people who need protection,” because, totes. “Like the next RBG!” Aidan replies, because, luvs. Aidan, who’s so perfect that he’s called Mr. Perfect, wants to attend the Berklee College of Music, to the mild disapproval of his presumably faultless parents, a cardiologist and a radiologist. The only character in this fairy-tale world of party buses and postcard-worthy picnics with any visible flaw is Clare’s stepfather, Steve (Patrick Sabongui). During his toast to Aidan and Clare before their final date, he casually mentions that he was recently kicked off the local city council, a bizarre little shocker that feels wildly out of place amongst all the plastic fantastic positivity.
Aidan and Clare’s final liaison is certainly epic, though not as epic as his parents’ credit card bill will be when it arrives. But, as with most everything here, we’re spared this concession to real life. Aidan’s multi-stop date will namecheck the Lakeview Theater, Lakeview Pizza and Lakeview High School which, in a clever misdirect, are all in the town of Lakeshore. His plan is to return to the key spots they visited during their ten months of courtship, which leads to a flashback revealing why that location is significant. This relationship greatest hits package, all wide smiles, moist eyes and shouts of joy, guarantees a continuous 20-minute endorphin rush for every young Netflix viewer.
Aidan and Clare go tubing at the lake, relive Valentine’s Day and take a cutesy lap around an empty ice staking rink, the latter being a lift from the 1976 Best Picture Oscar Winner, Rocky. Speaking of rocky, the possibility of actual conflict starts picking up steam after Clare and Aidan each secretly begin harboring second thoughts about breaking up. To take the pressure off, Clare insists that Stella (Ayo Edebiri) and fellow bestie Scotty (Nico Hiraga) accompany them for the rest of their increasingly less private and magical evening.
No matter how shot through with teen angst events become, the charming and handsome Fisher looks genetically engineered from whatever laboratory cranks out male leads on the CW. He’s so edgeless that he doesn’t elicit any genuine sympathy—even though Aidan is saddled with high achieving parents, which can be tough for any kid. But in this film, Aidan’s pressure to be perfect is exemplified by his inability to admit to Clare that he once farted. Compare that to Pixar’s Turning Red (Fisher’s in that, too), a movie whose fart reference was a throwaway joke that didn’t even make the final cut because the filmmakers preferred to stay focused on uniquely addressing an important teen issue.
Talia Ryder, who co-starred in 2020’s powerful Never Rarely Sometimes Always, fares better. She plays Clare as a tough, slightly neurotic, level-headed cookie and her ability to convey both strength and vulnerability suggests that Ryder is an actress to watch. The two leads are surrounded by an anonymous collection of low body fat teens, the standout being Edebiri, who shows spunk and personality as Stella.
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between has all the markings of a typical YA story at a time when most teen viewers, to their credit, respond better to something that feels real and not shiny and pre-packaged. The issues the movie attempts to tackle—parental expectations, heartbreak, anxiety over choosing the right path—have all been addressed better in other films. In this movie’s beautifully appointed, high-gloss, tree-lined bubble, Scotty’s empowering command to “Be bold” is not as impactful to our young lovers as Clare’s insistence that “It’s the fart. It’s always the fart.”