It says something about the state of modern romance that even the most mainstream teen rom-coms find inspiration in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. Based on the eponymous YA novel by Jennifer E. Smith and with a screenlay by Ben York Jones and Amy Reed, Netflix’s latest teen romance “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” follows two teens who plan their break-up on their very first date. No longer the sole province of Woody Allen-influenced adult rom-coms, the neurotic commitment-phobic teen, jaded by parental divorce and social media, has finally come for YA. Unfortunately in this case, they’re far less interesting than that sounds.
Playing with a gimmicky structure, “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” begins with a meet-cute, fast-forwards through a whirlwind senior year romance montage, then spends most of its brief 84-minute running time on a highly planned final “break-up” date. As Aidan (Jordan Fisher) and Clare (Talia Ryder) relive the highlights reel of their epic ten-month (an eternity in high school years) relationship, they come to doubt their reasons for breaking up.
The film is broken up into the requisite parts of its mouthful of a title: It opens with “The Hello,” moves hastily through “The In Between,” and lingers in the uncertain “Goodbye.” Unfortunately, this cutesy structure serves merely as an effective distraction, and the highly conventional characters hardly break out of their vague cookie cutter molds. The fast-paced dialogue and mature-but-wholesome humor creates a general aura of clever high school rapport, aided by a lively supporting performance from comedian Ayo Edebiri (“Big Mouth”). But in trying to be everything in between, the movie ends up being not much of anything.
After returning to the town of her youth after an adolescence spent moving around, Clare is wary of becoming too involved with anyone during her senior year. Too smitten to care, fun-loving singer Aidan convinces her to take a chance on him. In order to stave off Clare’s apprehension, they agree to break up at the end of the year, no matter what happens in the interim. Sparks fly over the months of the school year, which we see in the dizzying montage titled “The In Between,” rife with Christmas tree decorations and convivial family meals, but with very few specifics about the how or the why.
Barreling ahead at a dizzying clip, the hodgepodge way the script plays with time offers little to latch onto, zooming forward before delivering much personality from either main character. Though brief flashback-like reminiscences fill in some of the blanks, the movie asks the audience to care before giving them a good reason to do so. The time-jumping gimmick that should be fun and clever ends up pushing all the air out of the script, letting it off the hook for any substantive scenes or dramatic tension. By the time the romantic night devolves, it’s unclear why or how things took a turn.
It is interesting to imagine teenagers having enough foresight to plan a break-up before even getting involved, though there isn’t enough dialogue to give credit to either character for this feigned maturity. In a predictable explanation, Clare is afraid of becoming like her mother, who has a different boyfriend in every state but has never given up on love. In another cliche, Aidan dreams of music school while his parents have med school in mind, and Clare gives him the push he needs to pursue his dreams. The film seems to have a hard time taking their teenage anxieties seriously, knowing (as most people over 18 do) that life is long and you never know where you’ll end up.
These days it’s cool to be different, and with little to distinguish it from other YA movies, “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” hardly stands out from the crowd.
“Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” is now streaming on Netflix.