By Will Ashton (Three Beers) –
What if Quantum Leap made its way into the YA romance genre? Admittedly, that’s not the most accurate description of the bizarre, earnest and deeply sentimental Every Day, but it’s perhaps the simplest way to explain it. A compassionate, incredibly weird, but surprisingly endearing and gently impactful addition to the overpopulated crop of teen-focused weepers, Every Day isn’t groundbreaking or spellbinding work. Nevertheless, it’s an inspired, intimately tender and intriguingly thoughtful adaptation of David Levithan’s novel of the same name. Directed with great care and mindful consideration by Michael Sucsy (The Vow, Grey Gardens), Every Day is a body jumping young adult romance that doesn’t quite live up to the same poignant heights of Your Name, nor does it develop well beyond the surface level of its philosophical premise. But Sucsy’s adaptation is more engrossing and immersing than you’d expect it to be going in.
The film follows A, though no one actor plays the part. A bright, sensitive teenager who, throughout his entire life, has inexplicably switched bodies with thousands of different people his age — of various races, genders, and creeds — every single day of his existence. He doesn’t know why he does this, nor does he know how it works. But every morning, A finds himself inside the body of a new person, living out a different life. He walks in their shoes, adjusts to their relationships, understands their individual struggles, discovers their strengths and their crippling weakness and tries to leave the body — or, at the very least, the initial person who usually inhabits it — better and more well-adjusted than it was when he entered it.
A has zero control over who he becomes, nor does A understand why he lives this odd, unique way of life, but he lives a precarious, interchanging, fulfilling (literally) and deeply lonely life. He adjusts to whatever few patterns he can create (like setting an alarm around 11 PM before he’s set to switch bodies, yet again), but there is no one else in the whole wide world like A —as far as he can tell, at least – nor is there anyone who knows him or his curious case. A lives in solitude inside the lives of many people, without purpose beyond what each unique day brings… until he meets Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), a lovely, sweet young woman whom A grows smitten whenever he embodies her uncaring boyfriend, Justin (Justice Smith).
Shortly after A enters and exits Justin’s body, Rhiannon begins tracing A’s everchanging footsteps. Eventually, she begins to understand — as well as she can, at least — what A goes through in his unusual little life. From there, A and Rhiannon slowly-but-surely begin to form a romantic relationship, if a very difficult one. Though the newly formed couple try to stay in communication with one another as best they can (A has the same phone number every time he switches bodies — for reasons that honestly don’t make a whole lot of sense, but in order for this plot to work, you have to forgive such inexplicable details), it’s hard to stay in contact with someone who’ll have a different face, a different name, a different personality, and a different identity every day of their lives. But as these two lovers grow closer, they form a deeply unconventional relationship with one another, driven by whim and ever-changing circumstances.
Every Day is a deeply challenging story to tell, and an immensely hard story to translate onto the screen. Props should be given to Michael Suscy for making the film even the least bit accessible to audiences. The story doesn’t always flow, particularly towards the beginning, and it takes some time to fully process what is happening with A, something that’s likely clearer and easier to understand in the source material. (I haven’t read the book.) But through a screenplay adapted by fellow novelist Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Every Day is told in a manner that doesn’t condescend or belittle its teen audience. It’s a persceptive, intuitive film, one that lets the characters talk frankly and openly about their problems. The dialogue isn’t always natural, but it doesn’t feel like it’s made by adults entirely out of the loop either. It is affectionate, if fairly corny at times, and it tackles its testing material in a human, honest, astute way.
It is also a testament to both the filmmakers and the glowing talents of Angourie Rice that you believe in this strange little young romance at all. Even when the male lead is constantly switching bodies, there is a believable, palpable chemistry between the love interests, one that allows you to be invested in their off-kilter romance. It’s honestly pretty impressive that, even when A is embodied (literally) by an entirely different young actor or actress, each with their own mannerisms and quirks, you completely understand and empathize with his unique emotional journey. It’s through Suscy’s unenviable task that you completely comprehend the full journey of this protagonist and his difficult relationship, and it’s through Rice’s warm, unwavering on-screen presence that you become continuously invested in their coupling.
If I haven’t stressed it enough already, Every Day is one weird movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s odd that the movie tackles its loopy premise with the utmost seriousness. Granted, perhaps playing it straight is for the best. Double down on the goofiness and it becomes even more bizarre. Personally, I would’ve been happy with a nuttier, wackier movie, but I understand that’s not for everyone. Considering how original the premise is, though, Every Day plays a bit superficial compared to the meaty potential of its premise. There are so many questions raised, so many different ideas worth exploring. As a fairly rudimentary young relationship story at heart, if one given a uniquely fantastical/supernatural edge, Every Day isn’t quite as meaningful or engrossing as it could’ve been. Perhaps I need to read the book to get the full impact of the story. But as it stands, Every Day feels shaved of its full weight.
While it’s worth applauding Every Day for how fluid and accessible it becomes, notably in the final act, there are some bumps in the road, particularly towards the beginning. The visual presentation is weirdly pretty straightforward, never really indulging in any flashes or stylistic tricks. Perhaps the director thought the story was flavorful enough that he didn’t need to add any whiz to the pan? No matter. The plot, particularly in the first act, can also lumber. There are also subplots involving Rhiannon’s mother, played by a completely underused Maria Bello, and her older sister, played by Jessie‘s Debby Ryan, that are left unfulfilled or not fully resolved in an impacting way. But when your boyfriend keeps switching bodies on you, I suppose you can give a girl a little bit of slack for not having the time to fix her issues with her mom.
Every Day is a surprisingly touching, quietly moving inclusion into the YA romance genre. While not as strong as it could’ve been, it’s also a good bit better than it might’ve been in a great number of respects. Benefited from keen direction, an intelligent screenplay, and strong performances from its cast, including its wide berth of young actors playing A throughout his metaphysical way of living, Every Day is not destined to become a new young adult classic. But it’ll stick with you longer than you’ll expect.
Every Day (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time A switches bodies (maybe a sip for this one).
Take a Drink: every time a character mentions or looks at Instagram.
Take a drink: every time Justin gets mad jealous or suspicious. Or simply confrontational.
Take a Drink: every time Rhiannon gets super worried about A.
Do a Shot: whenever A and Rhiannon get physical.