Amanda Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera
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Although the third-act twist is a little bit too much, Everything, Everything is still a fine film for fans of the genre.
In this adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s novel, directed by Stella Meghie, 18-year-old Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) has spent her whole life staying inside her high-tech house due to her Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), which makes her allergic to anything outdoor. Maddy is home-educated through online courses, taken care of and supervised by her protective mother (Anika Noni Rose) along with kind nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera).
Like every film with the nurture vs. nature, teenage love motif (Romeo & Juliet onwards), Maddy is soon introduced to Olly (Nick Robinson) of the outside world, who happens to move into the neighborhood the day she turns 18. From the moment that Olly – with black-tee in denim, a skateboard and floppy hair – says “hi” to Maddy, audiences should be expecting some adult rule-breaking moments as their interest in each other develops.
Indeed, rule-breaking is the element that somehow moves the plot forward in a predictable way. For a girl who has never experienced the world and first love like Maddy, the mixed feeling of curiosity combined with a crush on someone is enough to trigger the first steps of the transformation. They first start with Taylor Swift-style window communication, then move on to texting. It is here that director Meghie challenges the conventions previously followed by films of the same genre, by turning those iMessages into fantasy spaces, mostly created by Maddy through her online architecture course. Thanks to this, the audience does not have to bear with the lovebirds’ screens whenever a message arrives. The fantasy in which they communicate to each other without any barrier also features an astronaut from Maddy’s imagination, an alter-ego of herself, wrapped in a suit to be protected from the harsh environment.
But as the developing crush develops into lovesickness, window glasses and phone screens cannot hold them back anymore. With help from Carla they meet each other for the first time. Then a second time without anybody knowing on the 4th of July. Eventually, the audience may be able to predict where these rule-breaking progressions would lead to, as Maddy’s mother finds out about their relationship. Maddy’s only sidekick gets fired, replaced with another nurse whom Maddie regards as Nurse Ratched (in a nice nod to a much finer, albeit very different, film). Again, in order to progress the plot further, Maddy needs to make an ultimate decision to break all the rules, even risking her life to explore the world for the first time ever.
As a slow-paced romantic film, the target audience has plenty of time to enjoy the sentimental moments Maddy and Olly share together, along with finer details that are questionable such as Maddy’s ability to get a credit card and generally adapt so quickly to the outside world, and the outside world adapt to her. The slow moments in the film are filled with an enjoyable soundtrack, which helps establish the emotional connections quite effectively. Though at times it can be melodramatic, seeing Maddy exploring the world for the first time with Alessia Cara’s voice in the background (“Stay”) or when the couple shares a carpool karaoke moment to “Let My Baby Stay” by Mac DeMarco, it served to break the monotony after an hour of being locked inside a high-tech house with Maddy. In general, the score manages to divert attention from the slightly plot holes peppered through this fictional scenario.
The film’s third act unfortunately reveals a twist that is both predictable and unnecessary, and feels as if the twist is the only solution to solve all the characters’ problems.
Stenberg and Robinson are sweet and attractive as the star-crossed lovers, with Stenberg’s bright smile and smart eyes contrasting with Robinson’s enigmatic half-asleep facial expression and dull eyes. Even though Maddy is locked indoors all her life, Stenberg’s character still radiates a more lively and energetic aura than Robinson’s rebellious and hunky Olly.
Overall, Everything, Everything is a fine movie in its genre. It follows certain conventions that enable the plot to move forward predictably, but also introduces interesting viewpoints that separate it from others.