Everything, Everything‘s heroine is Maddy Whittier, and she has SCID. That leaves her with a weakened immunity, carefully explained in an animated segment. They usually have don’t have those in adaptations of young adult novels, so that short segment was jarring. I looked up the disease on Wikipedia and it said the word ‘T-cells’. I know what those are.
Anyway, one of the things that the disease requires her to do is to only interact with three people. And they aren’t always going to be around.
This means that the only thing holding this film together is the actress playing Maddy, Amandla Stenberg. Her narration helps her occasionally. But some of the scenes require her to evoke thoughts and emotions through stillness.
And that’s something that Stenberg has yet to master. I’m rooting for her to succeed as I do with many actors. But she has to work on this, and quickly.
Thank God for the boy who moves next door, whose name is Olly Bright and is a skateboarder. Get it? Maddie’s bedroom window is, for purposes of the plot, across Olly’s. The actor playing Olly is Nick Robinson. My standards are low enough to give this quirky white boy a pass. This is a YA film so they inevitably fall in love.
He also lights a fire under her, finally giving her someone to act against. I’m assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that it’s easy for actors their age to pretend to fall in love. They bounce off lines against each other that I almost forget hot cheesy said lines are. But the film forgot that the audience has ears.
I’ve only had incremental encounters with the ‘teen romance with disease’ sub-genre. If Twilight counts as that genre’s Birth of a Nation, that’s a campy yet low bar to reach. At least that franchise has leads who are reliable, and this film’s problems extend to not having that.
Anika Noni Rose plays Maddie’s mom Pauline. Mother and daughter’s backstories intertwine. Pauline’s protective nature stems from her profession as a doctor and Maddie’s disease. There’s also a car accident that killed the latter’s father and brother. Rose has played troubled yet smart characters before but the film unfortunately doesn’t give her a shining moment.
Rounding up the cast is Ana de la Reguera as Carla, Maddie’s nurse. She reluctantly facilitates her and Olly’s clandestine meetings. There’s also Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo), the third person allowed to see Maddie.
I do have a reminder to people who will venture to make YA films. Just because it’s a genre film doesn’t mean that its audience disregard logic. The film’s biggest offense showing how credit cards works in fantasy land. Or perhaps that is Everything, Everything‘s intention.
And that’s because it shows now just one but three evils in modern western society. Not only does it show that country’s corrupt financial system. It also depicts an exaggerated version of black incarceration and of, spoiler alert, Munchausen by proxy syndrome.
The only contemporary movement that it has a positive opinion on is texting and online culture. It’s a benevolent take on that culture. And it only uses those as a gateway to the imaginary spaces where Maddie and Olly begin their interactions.
Last year, Director Stella Maghie’s released a self-penned 2016 Jean of the Joneses, a smart ensemble film. The only thing I see that tethers that and Everything Everything is how characters transcend their defensive natures. But here she submits too much the genre’s conventions.
The supporting characters are too benevolent and sedate, and the sets are, well…antiseptic. The film even has a knockoff Frank Lloyd Wright home architecture that I see in too many genre films. I really hope she returns to her indie roots.
- Release Date: 5/19/2017