Adolescence can often feel like an incredibly lonely and alienating time for anyone, but that is nothing compared to a teenager who has never stepped outside of her house. Those are the circumstances examined by Stella Meghie's Everything, Everything (an adaptation of Nicola Yoon's 2015 novel), and the result is a pleasant, but ultimately bland, final product. Everything, Everything has the style to draw in fans of the Young Adult genre, but it lacks the substance to truly resonate when compared to other (better) YA films.
Everything, Everything centers on a teenage girl named Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) who quite literally lives her life in a hermetically sealed bubble. Suffering from a rare auto-immune disease, the beach-obsessed Southern California native has never actually set foot outside of her house, let alone gone anywhere near the ocean. Already dreaming of bigger and better things than the four walls that she has come to know over the course of the last 18 years, Maddy's life is forever changed when a tastefully goth boy named Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door. As the two hormonal teenagers gradually bond and develop a connection with one another, Maddy's lifelong desire to get out of her house and see the world reaches a boiling point -- leading to conflict with those who wish to see her safely live out the rest of her days inside.
This is a movie steeped in metaphor. While Maddy's immune disease drives the overarching plot forward, it is also used as a foil to examine the isolation felt by those around her. From Olly's strained relationship with his father to the overbearing helicopter parenting of Maddy's mother (Anika Noni Rose) after the deaths of Maddy's father and brother, the film makes a sincere attempt to make a statement about how physical solitude is not the only form of imprisonment. The main problem is that these issues often feel half-baked when compared to the movie's devotion to the love story between Maddy and Olly. It is not that the film is necessarily bad, but it leaves its best ideas on the table in favor of superficial charm.
That naturally leads to the best thing that I can say about Everything, Everything, which is that it's astonishingly adorable and visually engaging. A movie focusing on a girl who cannot leave her house does not inherently sound like the most compelling premise in Hollywood, but director Stella Meghie does her best to use the filmmaking medium itself to give us a deeper look into Maddy's mind and imagination. Whether this involves creating a dialogue scene to represent a text exchange between two teens or using subtitles to showcase Nick and Maddy's inner monologs, Meghie uses every trick in the book to give the story a sense of dynamic energy. It is a noble effort, but Everything, Everything arguably dives into these tactics too quickly before giving us a real reason to care about our leads -- resulting in a case of style over substance.
Where the film does excel is in the characterization of its two leads. Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson have great chemistry together, and they can keep the charm flowing. This is critical, as they are basically the only two fully formed characters in the entire movie. Stenberg deserves special credit for her portrayal of Maddy; she easily gets the most to chew on as a performer, and she holds the weight of the movie on her shoulders. If there's one obvious silver lining to this film, it is that Everything, Everything is a great starring vehicle for this Hunger Games alum to continue proving herself as a leading woman.
Sadly, the same praise cannot be given to the film's supporting cast -- which is incredibly underdeveloped. Sure, this story is primarily about Maddy and Olly, but the film misses clear opportunities to provide more insight and depth. Beyond that, several characters introduced early on in the film ultimately have far less of an impact than Act I would suggest. The film clocks in at a mere 96 minutes, so it's hard to shake the feeling that several subplots and supporting characters are incredibly undercooked.
It is that rushed, underdeveloped sensibility that ultimately highlights Everything, Everything's biggest weakness as a film: it is insanely derivative. An astute member of the audience will see almost every story beat coming from a mile away, and there's no effort made to reinvent the wheel in a meaningful way. The story ultimately turns into a distillation of Young Adult cliches and conventions; honestly, take a drink every time the film uses a catchy pop music montage if you want to have a good time. While there's certainly a place for that in the pop culture landscape, it makes it hard to recommend Everything, Everything to anyone outside of the book's built-in fanbase, and even harder to recommend that you see it more than once.
Ultimately, Everything, Everything is likely going to play well with the crowd that it is being marketed to right now. The film is a sleek, stylish, and (most importantly) cute teenage love story, but it leans on those qualities too much and suffers as a result. If you read the book, then you will likely enjoy yourself with this fun adaptation. Beyond that, it seems doubtful that any newcomers to the story will find anything to truly latch onto here.
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