Director: Stella Meghie
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and brief sensuality.)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Alloy Entertainment, Itaca Films, MGM, and Warner Bros.
Written by: J. Mills Goodloe, adapted from the book “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon.
Largely in tune with Nicola Yoon‘s 2015 book of the same name, those who are familiar with the plot of Everything, Everything will likely be cool with everything that happens here. For those having a first exposure to the story through Stella Meghie‘s film, how much you like the film will depend on how the final 10-15 minutes plays for you. Obviously, there will be no spoilers here, but let’s just say there’s a whopper of a twist built into this thing and it serves as polarizing at best.
Young adult book-to-screen adaptations continue to land on the conveyor belt of the big studio machine, and positioning Everything, Everything in the summer movie season is an interesting move. Yoon’s book, brought to the big screen by screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe (Age of Adaline), details the life of 18-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), house-bound and stricken with an affliction known as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (SCID). She lives through books, the internet, television, music, and whatever she spies outside of the spacious windows of the home she shares with mom Pauline (Anika Noni Rose). The arrival of a handsome new neighbor, Olly (Nick Robinson), sends her into an emotional whirlwind, as he becomes smitten with her almost immediately and takes an immediate interest in why she never seems to come outside.
The film calls to mind a pinch of Romeo & Juliet, but definitely the story of Rapunzel (sans hair), or even Tangled, with Maddy’s mother holding a stern and watchful eye over her daughter’s health concerns. We learn that even spending mere moments outside could prove potentially fatal for her and, by turning 18, she is already wrestling with the desire to venture out into the real world. Olly’s immediate crush on Maddy is too inviting for her to refuse and she finds an ally in her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), who permits Olly to come in for a visit.
Meghie does a nice job of allowing these scrappy and smart characters the space to circle around one another and Stenberg delivers a wonderful performance, amidst occasional moments of contrived storytelling. Perhaps best remembered as Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, the young star-in-the-making finds great chemistry with Robinson, whose ear-tucked, shoulder-length hair makes him appear as the poster child for movies which need “That Hot Guy Who Is Really Nice And Really Loves Me Even If He Doesn’t Really Know Me.”
In other words, he is perfectly cast here.
Everything, Everything is quite an engaging little film, appropriately small and intimate in Maddy and Olly’s scenes together, and keen on an awareness of how Maddy sees the world. Stenberg is easy to root for, instantly charming and likable, and though the film makes some curious costuming choices with her, the actress creates a three-dimensional character who clearly has an outsider’s perspective on a world she is never allowed to fully experience.
This is far from perfect. The film embraces some rather silly impracticalities – a sequence in Hawaii comes to mind, undercooked subplots involving Olly’s life never really get enough time to matter, and then there’s that late-in-the-film reveal which makes the entire movie feel cut off at the knees.
But what saves much of the film is Stenberg and her smile, her confident performance, and her ability to convince us of her doubts and curiosities.
Everything, Everything may end in disappointment, but I rather enjoyed the film up to that point. And even though audible groans were heard throughout the theater when the “twist” arrives, I just cannot completely reject a sweet-tempered, well-intentioned film that has the potential of creating one new breakout star, who does more with the limitations strapped upon her character, then anyone could have ever expected.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- Amandla Stenberg. If enough people see this film, this could be a breakout performance for the young actress.
- Only the most cynical and ill-tempered will hate the initial 80 minutes or so. Skeptical as I was, parts of Everything, Everything kind of won me over.
- The book’s appeal comes through in the adaptation, light and airy, appropriately immature in how the main character views the world, but harmless and entertaining, until…
- That ending. Maybe it worked in print. Here, however, the ending absolutely flatlines and the movie nearly caves in upon itself immediately.
- Insight is lacking, the movie doesn’t have any real depth to the discoveries Maddy makes and yes, I recognize that audiences, if they wanted to, could turn on this thing really quickly.
- Probably pretty hard to convince anyone over the age of “teen” to sit down and watch this movie.