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Midnight Sun

A good heart is surprisingly easy to find in Midnight Sun, a gushing terminal illness weepie, which targets the same teenage tear ducts as The Fault In Our Stars. Directed with a heavy hand by Scott Speer, this English language remake of a 2006 Japanese film quickly distils the facts about a recessive condition called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), which is triggered by exposure to sunlight. Consequently, the luminous yet pale-skinned heroine of Speer's film, who suffers from XP, is consigned to her house by day behind special blinds, a distant observer to the ebb and flow of the daily life of hormone-addled peers. Bella Thorne channels the goofy charm of early Sandra Bullock in the central role, replete with nervous nose snorts, while Arnold Schwarzenegger's model son Patrick seizes his first leading role as a sensitive swimming team dreamboat, who encourages her to chase impossible dreams in the light. It's a potentially sickly confection and there are moments of shameless emotional manipulation in Eric Kirsten's script, tethered to the central character's burgeoning talent as a guitar-strumming singer-songwriter. However, there are also sweet and surprisingly touching scenes before the inevitable deluge of saltwater, galvanised by the smouldering screen chemistry of the two attractive leads. Katie Price (Thorne) lost her mother at an early age and she enjoys a close bond with her doting father Jack (Rob Riggle), who takes endless photographs of his girl - a ticking genetic timebomb, whose safety relies on seclusion. "You look just like your mother. Lucky you - she was hot!" he gushes, somewhat inappropriately. The sole visitor to the house is Katie's snarky gal pal Morgan (Quinn Shephard), who works in an ice cream parlour and actively encourages her best friend's obsession with golden boy Charlie (Schwarzenegger), whose dreams of a scholarship to Berkeley were ruined by shoulder injury. When Katie and Charlie finally meet on a train platform, sparks fly. "This is what Taylor Swift does," deadpans Morgan. "She has awkward interactions with boys then writes songs about them." Keeping secret her XP from Charlie, Katie embarks on a series of night-time dates with the unsuspecting hunk while Morgan finds a soulmate in her nerdy coworker, Garber (Nicholas Coombe). Midnight Sun follows a predictable narrative trajectory, trading lustful glances between the two leads before a late-night date spills over - disastrously - into early morning. Thorne and Schwarzenegger have a pleasing, natural rapport on screen, captured in swooning slow motion with occasional lens flare to hammer home the image of young love burning bright. Comedy veteran Riggle shows impressive emotional range in a rare dramatic role. Speer's film is too simplistic and contrived to dethrone The Fault In Our Stars but it succeeds in wringing out sniffles and sobs over the end credits.