In the past few years, Netflix has released a huge amount of content directed at teens. Even if they don’t release something in the genre for the next year, the viewers will still not run out of teen stories. What makes teen dramas so popular with the streaming services as well as the audience is, perhaps, the nostalgia factor. If done right, a teenager’s story has the potential to form a connection with the audience of every stratum. These films have a universal touch that gravitates everyone towards them. Netflix’s ‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’ focuses on such an emotion that hits the spot for the audience in a way that anyone watching it would feel a surge of sentimentality for what was and what could have been.
It begins with a chance meeting between Clare and Aidan. They connect easily and just after their first meeting, it is clear to both of them that they have something special. However, Clare has already made up her mind about the future. She doesn’t want to engage in a relationship for the one school year that remains and then carry it forward to college. She wants a clean slate when she leaves town and makes it very clear to Aidan that they have to break up with each other before they go to college.
Aidan doesn’t mind making a break-up pact. But as time flows by and he falls in love with her, he hopes she’ll change her mind. On the last day they have with each other, he takes her on a date that retraces the journey of their relationship. He hopes to remind her of all the good times they had, wishing she’ll give them another chance. On her end, Clare feels uneasy about the uncertainty that is developing in her, and as hard as it might get, she wants to stick by her decision. Through this, the central conflict of the story is established pretty early in the film. Though this time, the “will they, won’t they” is about the characters breaking up with each other. To its credit, the film makes it easy for the audience to become invested in the romance, which generally takes much longer to incite interest.
The film enjoys the benefit of a great pairing, with actors that exhibit great chemistry, making their romance believable. Jordan Fisher, who is now a veteran with teen hits like ‘To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You’ and ‘Work It’, brings a charming, boy-next-door sort of approachability to his character. He is instantly likable, albeit pretty similar to his previous Netflix roles. Talia Ryder, who appeared in the 2020 indie film (which has sadly become more relevant now) ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’, brings a freshness to the role of Clare. She is strong and determined and knows what she wants. Ryder brings a sensibility to the role that carves a different place for her in the league of teen heroines. There is a great contrast between the main characters, despite their general agreeableness, which becomes more evident as the story progresses. What begins as a whirlwind romance starts to settle down in the reality of adulthood, exploring a path that is rarely seen in Netflix’s teen films.
As great a pair of leads as it has, the film suffers from undercooked supporting characters. Understandably, they are there to further the journey of Clare and Aidan, but their own plots are scarcely explored. The film becomes so invested in the central romance that other relationships of the protagonists are conveniently ignored. It also uses the sense of finality between Aidan and Clare to drive its conflict, but when the same thing leaks into Clare’s friendships, it doesn’t seem reasonable.
There are a couple of other things that might bug a viewer, but the overall effect of the film is very warm and feel-good. The locations are inviting and stoke nostalgia for lakeside adventures, romantic or otherwise. Being a romance, the film employs a few tried and tested cliches, but is smart enough to bring its own touch to them, keeping itself from being repetitive.
What makes ‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’ engaging is the realistic struggles it forces on the characters. There is no bad guy, no love triangle, no silly misunderstandings between Clare and Aiden. This is a pair of smart and sweet people who are clearly a great fit. But, the timing is off and both of them want different things in life. It works in the film’s favor to keep their characters so distinctly stubborn about their own choices that the viewer is compelled to take a side, even when rooting for both of them to end up together.
In some sense, ‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’ feels like a moderate, teen version of ‘La La Land’. Though the Netflix film needs a lot more finesse to match up to the Oscar winner, both of them have a similar undercurrent. Love is treated as a fleeting thing, a stop in the way of bigger things. While Mia and Sebastian’s story ended on a more heart-breakingly bittersweet note, Clare and Adrian’s story offers the hopeless romance that can only be found in young love.
‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’, in spite of its occasional sappiness, is a refreshing watch. It is certainly different from the plethora of films that have plagued the teen and romance genre with their acute mediocrity. It has some space left for improvement, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, especially if you are in the mood for something that will evoke that romantic, end-of-the-summer feel for you.