Let’s Get Reel: SPF-18


Lauren Toneatto ’21, Social Media Editor

Are you ever just craving a rom-com? Coming back from Fall Pause, I had this exact feeling. Luckily, it didn’t take long for me to scroll through Netflix and discover SPF-18. Starring the current rom-com king, Noah Centineo, who was recently in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Loser, so SPF-18 seemed like the perfect flick to fill my longing. 

However, beyond this initial desire, SPF-18 is actually one of the worst movies I have ever seen. If I had to sum it up in one word, without a second thought, it would be cringe (messy and random are also close contenders). 

But isn’t being at least mildly awkward a requirement for a romantic comedy? With that in mind, while the plot, acting and characters gave me second hand embarrassment, I don’t entirely regret watching it. 

Long time best friends turned lovers, Penny (Carson Meyer) and Johnny (Noah Centineo) both have parent problems. Penny videotapes every waking moment because she claims this is the only way to take attention off of her famous mother. Meanwhile, the death of his surfing legend father causes Johnny to take a break from surfing. 

Thanks to his dad’s connections, Johnny finds himself house sitting his family-friend’s Malibu beach house. Here, Penny and Johnny find themselves having an unforgettable summer with the addition of two other friends. 

Now, let’s start with all the issues I had with this movie. Firstly, there is a mysterious narrator who has a voice that is unbearable to listen to. Dull and uninterested, her voice is much more suited for a nature documentary than narrating the exciting lives of high schoolers. The narrator also sounds extremely old to be talking about teenagers. Additionally, it doesn’t match the plot of the film. The monotone voice contrasts the descriptions of what are supposed to be the best moments of Penny’s life. How am I supposed to believe Penny is having the best summer of her life when everything the narrator describes sounds boring? Nevertheless, this choice of narrator only adds to the cringe of SPF-18. When the narrator outlandishly describes sex and Penny looks mysteriously into the distance, I had to pause the movie for a moment to reevaluate what I was watching. 

Penny’s cousin, Camilla (Bianca A. Santos), surprises her for a summer visit. I found it slightly odd that Camilla was so adamant about coming to the beach house on the night that Penny planned to have sex for the first time. But honestly, this was the least annoying trait of hers. Camilla continually tried to be “deep” and philosophical despite admitting on several occasions that she has no plan for her future. 

For example, when she first sees Ash (Jackson White), runaway pop star and the fourth beach house guest, swimming at night, Camilla says she witnessed a “Baptist”. 

This scene alone could not be any more cringey. Ash was trying to look sexy as he ran his hands through his wet hair, while Camilla ogled at him from afar. Overall, I was just incredibly uncomfortable.  

Of course, she immediately tells Penny about what she witnessed the next morning, and the friends just happen to stumble upon Ash who needs a place to stay. This entire movie feels like it is a superficial, fantasy world. The high cringe level of this movie only adds to this assumption. 

Despite his current appeal, Noah Centineo doesn’t add much to the film. He’s sad and moody for the majority of the film, coping with the death of his father. This results in him avoiding his friends and having an internal dilemma of whether to continue surfing or not. 

So many memorable moments happen in this film, not because of their quality but because of their ridiculousness; yet, I cannot recall any that directly involve Johnny. He takes on the stock character of cute white boy but doesn’t add much else to the film. 

Overall, watch SPF-18 at your own risk. It might be a fun idea to watch it with your friends and collectively criticize it. Of the rom-coms available on Netflix, this would not be my top recommendation. However, there’s definitely a time and place where SPF-18 can find its perfect audience. If you have an hour you want to waste, and an abundance of brain cells you don’t mind losing, go ahead and watch SPF-18.