Hollywood has churned out hundreds of teen romance and coming-of-age films in the past few decades. The former are usually filled with toxic examples of insecurity, possessiveness, and jealousy being passed off as love, while the former often feature teens growing into adulthood from the ashes of wildly traumatic life situations. Here On Earth, thankfully, is a respite from these.
Jasper (Josh Harnett) is a small-town farm boy with a humble but fulfilling life. He has kind, supportive parents, a loving younger sister, and a loyal best friend. Kelly Morse (Chris Klein) is a rich soon-to-be graduate from the local boys’ prep school who is malcontent, has a fractured relationship with his father, is still mourning his deceased mother, and hides his pain behind a veneer of arrogance. What do they have in common? They’re both in love with the same girl: Samantha (Leelee Sobieski). Samantha, who happens to be Jasper’s girlfriend, is working the night shift at her family’s restaurant, when Kelly comes in one night with his classmates. When he and Samantha meet, there’s instant chemistry, but between Jasper and Kelly, there’s instant hatred which leads rebellious Kelly and hot-headed Jasper into making one bad decision that had legal consequences.
Thanks to White privilege, kindly townspeople, and a lenient judge, Jasper and Kelly don’t serve any time, but they are forced to spend the entire summer together, working community service to repair the damage they’ve caused, and Samantha is forced to confront the intense, burgeoning feelings that she has for Kelly. Jasper and Samantha are best friends: he is steady, kind, and dependable. This alone makes the love-triangle in Here On Earth wildly interesting. Usually, the girl’s current partner is a complete asshole and the choice is easy, but in this case, both boys have their strengths and weaknesses, so their is no obvious tie-breaker.
Klein and Sobieski have a sizzling chemistry that lends an air of excitement and anticipation to their characters’ every interaction, and the story becomes even more complicated when health problems from Samantha’s past resurface and test not just her, but the depth of the love that both her suitors claim to have for her. Here On Earth is beautiful and interesting for various reasons, but chief among them is that it isn’t just Samantha’s coming-of-age story; it’s Jasper’s and Kelly’s as well. In navigating their feelings, each person is forced to grow stronger, more vulnerable and compassionate, and more selfless.
Here On Earth reminds us that romantic love doesn’t always have to be sexual, that platonic love is no less valid and worthy, that love is not possessive, and that true love knows when to hold on, as well as when to let go. I give this one 4.25 stars.