Dying has never seemed so adorable as it’s depicted in Peter Hutchings’ comedy-drama about the friendship between a terminally ill manic pixie dream girl and an emotionally stunted hypochondriac. Although it features strong performances and some affecting moments, Then Came You suffers from the sort of cutesiness endemic to so many teen-oriented films, not to mention an over-reliance on montages accompanied by a pop music soundtrack that helpfully reminds you exactly what you’re supposed to be feeling at any given moment.
The central characters are Skye (Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones), whose spunky iconoclasm is instantly signaled through such gestures as keeping a goldfish in her IV bag, and Calvin (Asa Butterfield, The Space Between Us), a sensitive young man who works as an airport baggage handler alongside his father (David Koechner) and older brother (Tyler Hoechlin). When we first see Skye, she’s receiving the dire news about her condition from her doctor. Her reaction is to blithely turn to her shattered parents and point out, “You win some, you lose some.”
Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Skye and Calvin meet cute at a support group for cancer sufferers. Skye has every right to be there, since she’s actually suffering from the disease, while the neurotic Calvin is there on the advice of his frustrated doctor, who wants his healthy patient to get some perspective on what it’s actually like to be dying.
Fergal Rock’s screenplay veers in a somewhat unexpected direction in that the story doesn’t concern a burgeoning romance between Skye and Calvin, but rather her efforts to help him in his fumbling attempts to ask out Izzy (Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries), a beautiful flight attendant who, as Skye points out, is way out of his league. Unfortunately, that tentative courtship, fueled by such things as Calvin’s complimentary responses to Izzy’s photography and her sympathy about his supposed serious illness, doesn’t prove particularly interesting. And since Izzy is still embittered by her previous boyfriend’s duplicitousness, it isn’t hard to see what will happen when she inevitably finds out that Calvin isn’t actually sick.
The film’s most annoying element concerns Skye’s desire to complete her bucket list before she dies, which leads to cutesy vignettes in which Calvin helps her cross off such items as “Punch someone in the face.” Two sympathetic cops (Ken Jeong, Briana Venskus) also get in on the act, apparently willing to flout department rules by locking Skye and Calvin up in a jail cell and administering lie-detector tests to them.
There’s additional forced melodrama with a subplot involving the catatonic depression of Calvin’s mother, who has been that way for years, ever since a devastating car accident in which Calvin’s twin sister was killed. That storyline does, however, provide the opportunity for screen veteran Koechner, normally seen in comedic roles, to stretch his acting muscles with his understatedly moving portrayal of Calvin’s loving father.
It’s only thanks to the strong performances of its young leads that Then Came You, with its predictable plot machinations and trite cinematic gimmicks, manages to be as surprisingly watchable as it is. Williams makes her sprightly character appealingly vulnerable, while Butterfield, who looks like he’s auditioning for a remake of Harold and Maude, uses his huge puppy-dog eyes to fine emotive effect. They’re good enough to make you wish that they had been paired in a better movie.
Production company: BCDF Pictures
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev, Tyler Hoechlin, David Koechner, Peyton List, Tituss Burgess, Sonya Walger, Margot Bingham, Ken Jeong, Briana Venskus
Director: Peter Hutchings
Screenwriter: Fergal Rock
Producers: Nicolas Chartier, Brice Dal Farra, Claude Dal Farra, Brian Keady, Alissa Phillips, Derrick Tseng
Director of photography: Andre Lascaris
Production designer: Lisa Myers
Costume designer: Jennifer Rogien
Editors: Jacob Craycroft, Jason Nicholson
Composer: Spencer David Hutchings
Casting: Neely Eisenstein