Candy Jar was a unique film with an important message


Netflix has been releasing countless original movies every week and some of them are really, really bad. Most of them are, actually. But a few days ago I stumbled upon a feel-good drama that changed my previous notion that all Netflix originals are terrible.

Candy Jar, directed by Ben Shelton, centered around two determined debaters navigating their final year of high school. By nature, they have always disagreed on literally everything and can’t remember a time where they liked each other. The only thing that they can agree on is disagreeing. Lona(Sami Gayle) is the ambitious, introverted debater who has spent her entire school career focusing on one thing: getting into Harvard. Bennett(Jacob Latimore) shares the same personality, only his main focus is getting into Yale.

Most of the film showed the two rapidly spewing facts in their allotted time limit in order to beat out the competition. They pushed their competitors out of the competition like dominos; Lona and Bennett were the perfect team– even if they didn’t know it. With all of the time they were spending together in order to prepare for the big state competition, they were bound to find something in common or even confide in each other, but it wasn’t until much later in the movie did that actually happen.

It also wasn’t until a lot later in the movie that I realized why it was called Candy Jar. It seemed like a weird title for a film about two students debating their way through high school. Lona and Bennett carried the weight of the world on their shoulders because of the countless competitions and their tunnel-vision focus on college. They both found support in their guidance counselor, Kathy(Helen Hunt), who let them vent and offered advice about their futures. Her room was filled with inspirational posters– typical counselor things– but her shelves were completely covered in candy jars. The kids would come in whenever they had the chance to eat candy and talk about their lives.

Lona and Bennett could speak at 400 words per minute every Saturday at the competitions, but they didn’t know how to speak to each other, which is why Kathy was such a big part of the film. The kids lacked social skills because they had spent their entire lives researching, writing, studying, and debating. Their entire lives depended on getting into their dream schools. When Lona and Bennett’s future plans were down the drain because they didn’t get accepted, they immediately wanted to talk to Kathy. And when an even more catastrophic event occurs, the kids had to learn how to talk to each other instead of at each other.

Candy Jar did not shy away from addressing the fact that kids are too focused on school and their futures, instead of just living each day. There was a really emotional scene where Lona and Bennett had to change their debate tactics– firing off 400 words per minute that nobody could comprehend– when they were against a school that did things unconventionally. The two debaters from the other school used stories– feelings– instead of facts to address their point that kids are studying robots. It was a powerful scene that I’m sure spoke to a lot of students.

Candy Jar was a really well-done film. The music fit each scene and mood perfectly; it really helped set the overall tone. The actors fit their intense roles really well and their chemistry portrayed on screen. I enjoyed the film immensely and recommend it to anyone looking for a feel-good movie to watch on a lazy Sunday.