Then Came You is everything you would expect from young adult cinema in 2019. It has romance, quirky humor, and terminal illness – all hallmarks of YA films these days. With the success of The Fault in Our Stars in 2014 came a new niche genre of teen films. The genre centers around star-crossed young adults in love but plagued by terminal illness. Indie flick Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and blockbuster Me Before You were successes in this new genre. With all of these very recent similar films, I approached Then Came You with a slight skepticism. I doubted that another terminal romance film have anything fresh to say. Then Came You not only cleared away my doubts – it destroyed them.
Then Came You begins with Skye (Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones), a spunky girl with wildy colorful hair, learning that her cancer is terminal. Facing the reality that she doesn’t have long left to live, she happily replies, “you win some, you lose some”. Her reaction is a shock but makes sense as the film moves along. We then meet Calvin (Asa Butterfield of Sex Education) a hypochondriac who is determined that he has something horribly wrong with him. His doctor informs him that he is healthy, to which Calvin aggressively disagrees. The doctor sends Calvin to a cancer support group in an attempt to give Calvin perspective on the situation. This is where our two main characters meet and change each other’s lives drastically.
The charismatic Skye takes an immediate interest in the quiet Calvin in this scene. She pursues him in hopes that he will help her check things off of her To Die List. Calvin agrees to help and the two become fast friends. Skye slowly brings Calvin out of his shell, while Calvin brings out Skye’s hidden emotional depths. The two are complete opposites and this is where the film finds it’s stride. This movie is sweet, hilarious and charming in every sense of the word. The two leads have delightful chemistry and it’s a pleasure to see them work with this script.
Despite the fun the movie has, there’s a lot going on under the candy-coated shell of Then Came You. I saw some reviews of this film before seeing it for myself and saw a lot criticism thrown at the character of Skye. Many people called her a “caricature of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and while she seems that way at first, she is clearly more than that. Throughout most of the film, Skye makes light of the fact that she is dying. She seems to live on another planet where everyone has endless energy and an infinite wig collection. While getting closer to Calvin, she admits that she was sad about her disease but she just can’t do it anymore.
Skye refuses to give her cancer the one thing it can’t touch: her happiness. She would rather go out with a bang then with a whimper. She’s brave in the face of death, although fear and vulnerability are seen as the film progresses towards the end. She teaches Calvin, who is healthy but lives in constant worry over imagined sickness, that they can’t waste their lives. She doesn’t want to wait around to die; and she doesn’t want Calvin to either. This dynamic and the profound impact that they have on each other is incredibly moving.
I also appreciated the film’s exploration of male and female friendship. So rarely does a story let men and women just enjoy each other’s company purely for their personalities. These two share a deep pure love for each other that never has to be romantic or sexual. The level of understanding and care they develop for each other moved me to tears by the end of the film.
The cast in this film is pitch perfect all across the board. Maisie Williams in particular is sensational in the role of Skye. She’s a firecracker, effortlessly blending humor and heart until she gut punches you with her vulnerable performance. This film is truly her showcase, proving her worthy of any role that comes her way. Asa Butterfield is great as Calvin, displaying amazing restraint when necessary but also getting to be hilarious and emotional. Together they’re a dream team, one of the best dynamic duos I’ve seen in some time.
Nina Dobrev has a smaller role in the film as Izzy, a flight attendant that Calvin has a crush on. Although she’s not in the film as much as the other two leads, she makes quite the impression. She’s a grounding presence in the movie, her Izzy is likable no matter what. Dobrev brings a resonant truth to the film that balances out the high levels of quirkiness in Skye. She also does some incredibly effective, subtle face acting – one look tells a story. Ken Jeong and Briana Venskus also bring a whimsical element to the film in their role’s as police officers who give Calvin constant passes because they assume he has cancer.
When I researched director Peter Hutchings, I was surprised to find a rather small filmography. He’s worked on a few small projects including Then Came You but he’s a relatively new director. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the future, he’s clearly got talent. This film is so focused and well-crafted that I can’t wait to see what subject he chooses to tackle next. My final consensus on this film is to see it. See it without skepticism and know that you’re in for a delicate treat unlike any other.