This summer has been a hot one so far, and what better way to celebrate than with a romance, but with a twist? This week, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, based on the 2015 Little, Brown novel of the same name by Jennifer E. Smith, is available to stream on Netflix.
The film was written by Amy Reed (Diary of a Future President) and Ben York Jones (Everything Sucks!); directed by Michael Lewen (The King of Staten Island); and produced by Matt Kaplan (the To All the Boys series). Fans of the To All the Boys movies may recognize Jordan Fisher (To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You), who plays Aidan; he’s joined by Talia Ryder (Claire, West Side Story), Ayo Edebiri (Stella, Dickinson), Nico Hiraga (Scotty, Booksmart), Jennifer Robertson (Nancy, Ginny & Georgia), Julia Benson (Claudia, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries), and Patrick Sabongui (Steve, The Flash).
Aiden (Fisher) and Claire (Ryder) make a pact to break up before heading to their respective colleges. Now, on the night before they are leaving, they must decide if they want to stick to the pact or stay together. What follows is a night of retracing the steps of their relationship as they try to determine what their future might have in store. This leads the couple to reminisce about special locations and uncover surprising revelations. But as the night turns to morning the question still remains; is this a goodbye both are willing to say?
First optioned in 2014, the film has been eight years in the making, bouncing from studios and production companies, finally finding a home with ACE Entertainment. “It’s been an incredibly long process and so different from publishing in many ways,” Smith told PW. “I was thrilled to find out that it was going to be on Netflix. I think the most exciting thing was seeing the very first cut of the film version. I remember watching it on my computer and thinking how surreal it was to see this story that I made up so long ago, sitting alone in a room with my imaginary friends, turning into something that looks a lot like a real movie.”
From the beginning, Audrey Bendix, one of the film’s executive producers, said she worked closely on the rewrite of the script as well as hiring production designers, casting the movie, and working with the director to figure out the look of the film. “When I came into ACE this book had already been optioned by my boss, Matt Kaplan. I had produced the To All the Boys series with Matt. When I came in as a full-time producer, this was the next film that they wanted to do,” Bendix recalled. “ACE really prides itself in the way that we like to work with book authors. We want their input and want to make sure they’re blessing the movie as we’re putting it together. Because as everybody knows, when you turn a book into a movie, things change.”
Smith read early drafts of the script, saw various cuts of the film, and was on set along the way. “I got to be a fly on the wall and I felt really lucky to do that,” she said. “I think they did right by the book.” Having worked on several movie scripts based on herbooks, Smith has seen many different versions of other people’s adaptations, but “this one is different in many ways,” she stressed. “The feel of it and the themes it explores are the same, capturing the heart and spirit of the book. To me that was really important.”
It didn’t hit Smith that her book was actually going to be a movie until much later in the process. “I kept saying to the producer, ‘You know, assuming this actually happened.’ She was like, ‘Jen, we’re in Vancouver, we’re on set, we’re in a van looking at locations. This is happening.’ ” Smith said. “But I couldn’t believe it until the movie was shot.”
While the movie is different from the book in many ways (“I think the funniest change is that in the book, they go to a pizza place. In the book, it’s a very dive-y pizza by the slice, video games in the corner place,” Smith said with a laugh. “In the film version, it’s a pizza restaurant on a floating dock with fairy lights”), fans will be happy to know that at its core, the book remains unchanged. “I like to write books about moments in time that act as hinges, like days where there’s a really clear split between before and after. It’s that intersection of saying goodbye to everything and endings and beginnings and how poignant and bittersweet that is. And I think they did an amazing job.”
And for Bendix, the admiration goes both ways. “If anyone should be writing romantic comedies, it’s Jennifer E. Smith,” Bendix said. “I love Jen. I’ve now worked with her on adapting two of her books. She was really generous with her time and her thoughts and has been there every step of the way. I keep telling her, ‘You need to write more books so that I can adapt them,’ because I just want to keep working with her.”
Fans of Smith can also look forward to another book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (LBYR), hitting screens. “I don’t know when it will be out yet, but it will be on Netflix,” Smith revealed. “It’s a lot closer of an adaptation and I’m excited about that in all different ways.” Fans can also keep their eyes peeled for the involvement of a certain Hello, Goodbye actor on an upcoming project. “I’m working on the next adult novel, which I’m really excited about,” Smith said. “I’m also writing a script for one of my other books, Field Notes on Love, which I’m co-writing with Lauren Graham, which has been really fun and exciting, and Jordan is actually attached to that as well.”
Smith can’t wait for fans to see the movie. “I’m biased. To me, it’s not just a classic rom-com. I hope people leave feeling unafraid of that hinge moment,” Smith said. “It’s been fun doing new things and mixing it up a little bit. But I’m also happiest when at the end of the day I get to sit down with my novel and keep writing. I’m doing what I love to do—how lucky am I?”