By: Hawk Ripjaw (Four Beers) –
Maddie (Amandla Stenberg) has a very rare case of SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), which in Hollywood means you need to live in an airlocked house where everything is irradiated to remove contamination and you can never, ever go outside. In real life, it means that you’re fucking dead well before age 18 unless you get a bone marrow transplant, which could also kill you. Of course, the movie has a love interest, so it goes for Door A and lets Maddie live in her sterile prison, where she exchanges text messages and longing looks with new boy-next-door Olly (Nick Robinson) and his conveniently-located bedroom window. Despite the wishes and fears of her mother (Anika Noni Rose) and nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), Maddie finds a way out and finds a way to be with Olly. But will true love conquer her sickness?
I can’t believe I just wrote that.
Probably the biggest surprise of Everything, Everything is how earnest it is. The lighting, cinematography, and music feel bright and alive, and there is a genuine feeling that the filmmakers have a connection to the story and characters. It’s a nice Stenberg and Robinson also have very strong chemistry as the love interests. The emote and interact in realistic ways, and there’s a genuine feeling of affection between them.
Maddie and Olly text–a lot. While Everything, Everything begins with the simple device of showing the text exchanges overlaid on the picture, director Stella Meghie quickly starts to experiment with ways to shake things up, such as dropping both characters into a diner of budding architect Maddie’s design, sitting across a table and verbally exchanging texts. It’s a cool, unconventional way to connect the characters when they can only converse indirectly, and the movie really comes alive during these creative and occasionally eccentric segments.
Earnestness, however, doesn’t give you much mileage without a strong script. Everything, Everything does not have a strong script, and as a result suffers in several fundamental places; for starters, it’s often very boring, as the events and stakes of the story fail to offer anything of genuine interest. The dialogue is pieced together from fortune cookie vignettes and romantic Tumblr verses, never coming together like anything that feels remotely realistic. It’s a fantasy romance, and it works against the earnest, realistic affection between the characters that Stenberg and Robinson work so hard to make effective.
Further owing to the slight clumsiness of the script is the uneven internal logic of the movie itself. Most notably, much is made of the great lengths taken to protect Maddie, even restricting what can be brought into the house for fear of contamination. Practically in the next scene, nurse Carla brings a book into the house for Maddie. Later on, Maddie signs up for a credit card, and uses it to purchase plane tickets, and we are expected to ignore the fact that a girl who has been confined in the same house for 17 years has identification to board a plane in 2017. A lot of the problems here come directly from elements concerning Maddie’s condition, because their ramshackle logic consistently endangers the momentum of the love story with glaringly obvious passes at misery porn and that weirdly trendy Hollywood subgenre of attractive teenagers having terminal illnesses.
In the last act, the movie delivers a “twist” that you can almost definitely guess from watching the trailer, and more than likely guess from hearing a synopsis. It’s clumsily handled and dangerously tone deaf, and it derails the entire movie in a way that it never fully recovers. Again, it suggests the movie’s own lack of confidence in the strength of the romance side of the film when it so hastily drags a sudden turn of events on the illness side. As a result, they don’t work well together.
There are far worse YA adaptations and even teen romances out there, but there are better ones as well. Everything, Everything sits around the middle of the pack, with pleasant visuals and score clashing with uneven pacing and a clumsy script. At the end of the day, it’s inoffensive, and will probably satisfy the core demographic (which doesn’t include me, at all) but there’s not much reason to see it otherwise.
Everything, Everything (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every time Maddie and Olly start texting.
Do a Shot: for every fantasy sequence.
Take a Drink: every time mom says/does something shitty.
Do a Shot: for every licensed song.