Likeable characters and a light take on a famously morbid subgenre help Still Out of My League, but it’s still saddled with a weak script and an overly cliched narrative.
This review of Still Out of My League is spoiler-free.
The subgenre of teen-focused romance in which one or both parties are terminally ill has flourished in recent years thanks to films like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The Fault In Our Stars. It tends to be a bit of a trick, a way to pull on the heartstrings by imperiling the characters at a moment’s notice, and allowing love – even young love – to overcome all the boundaries placed in front of it. Out of My League, on Netflix, was an example of such a film, but a weaker version that couldn’t commit to its potentially crushing premise. It determinedly found a happy ending, and like most films of this type, it didn’t really need a sequel.
True to form, we got one anyway.
Still Out of My League exists within the same subgenre, but pays even less attention to the lead character’s Mucoviscidosis, a genetic disease that causes one’s lungs to fill up with thick, sticky mucus. Marta (Ludovica Francesconi) has some tubes in her nose, and she’s waiting for a lung transplant, but beyond these things, her life seems mostly unaffected by her illness. After having found love and happiness at the end of the first film, she has since lost it but seems quite okay with the whole situation – especially when she promptly meets her new beau, Gabriele (Giancarlo Commare).
Gabriele is very handsome but mostly uninteresting, and Still Out of My League actually side-lines him for long stretches, sending him off to Paris so that Marta can deal with the travails of a long-distance relationship (they both get paranoid – who’d have thought?). This, though, turns out to not be too much of a problem, since it isn’t Marta’s relationship with Gabriele that really makes the film, but her relationship with her two openly gay best friends, Federica (Gaja Masciale) and Jacopo (Jozef Gjura).
Here’s a film that is definitely arch, cliched, and often uninteresting, but I bought into these three. I believed in their friendship, and I found their banter to be believable and fun. As the film goes on and Marta grapples with the stresses of her and Gabriele’s relationship, subplots involving Jacopo trying to figure out if a handsome delivery man is gay, and Federica trying to take down her abusive new boss, pad out the runtime and are folded – for the most part – quite neatly into the main romance. It’s hardly award-winning acting, but it’s a just-right kind of acting that allows the characters to feel real rather than like constructs.
Ultimately, Still Out of My League can’t overcome a weak script and a pointlessly ambiguous ending. Late attempts to drum up emotion don’t feel earned, and the inevitability of another sequel saps some of the potential power from the setup. But those who like this kind of thing will undoubtedly like this happier, lighter version of it, and perhaps there’s something to be said for a story that deals with a serious illness in a way that isn’t all crushing doom and gloom. On a light streaming weekend, I’d just about recommend it.