It would be easy to dismiss Everything, Everything as being overly sappy if teenage romance wasn’t inherently overly sappy. That’s the nature of teen love, all fresh faced and optimistic, where things can and will work out simply because you want them to, and not because they’re right. In that regard, Everything, Everything can be seen as spot on, but that’s not to say it’s a good movie.
What burdens Everything, Everything is not its depiction of teenage romance, but rather how it handles the rest of it. It has an interesting enough premise that works well, but the twists and turns near the climax prevent the film from reaching a true state of cinematic Zen, despite the best efforts of director Stella Meghie (Jean of the Joneses) and her cast.
The film follows Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as Maddy, an 18-year-old girl with a severe immune deficiency that requires her to be locked away inside her house, from which she longingly watches the world. When the oh-so-dreamy Olly (Nick Robinson, Jurassic World) moves in next door, her longing for something more from life is awakened.
It’s an interesting premise made less interesting by screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe, who ignores the meat of the story in favor of saccharine familiarity. Latent in the story is Maddy’s helplessness as she endures the longing typical of teenage frustration and need to rebel—she’s even given the perfect foil in her mother, played with nuance by Anika Noni Rose (Imperial Dreams)—but it plays out via cheap emotional shortcuts.
Admittedly, this could be a problem with source material from writer Nicola Yoon. If so, perhaps this was simply Goodloe doing the best he could with what he was given. Even still, there are directions he could have gone in that are simply glossed over and ignored in favor of a relatively by-the-numbers story of teenage romance.
It’s hard to get into specifically without running the risk of spoilers, but the third act hinges on a Shocking Twist that should have been heartbreaking. Instead it’s glossed over and brushed aside. This cheapens not just the reveal but the emotional effect it’s meant to produce. The glossing over of this drama—which should have been the real source of tension in the film—is a major misstep that’s ultimately unrecoverable.
The good that comes from Everything, Everything is due in large part to Meghie. It’s an often beautiful film to look at, and its director approaches it with a careful eye. There’s a lot of talent to be mined from her perspective, and with a better script she could shine and become truly amazing cinematic voice. Additionally, she brings the best out of her cast, especially Stenberg, who seems to fully understand Maddy’s plight and plays her role with an understated grace. Her longing is palpable, despite the script and its stilted writing, and she’s very nearly the saving grace of the whole endeavor.
In the end, however, Everything, Everything can’t overcome the limitations of its script, which chooses to play above the surface instead of diving into deeper waters. It’s a frustrating experience, watching a film with so many outstanding pieces fall apart with lackluster writing. Everything, Everything isn’t a terrible movie, but seeing it get so close to greatness and falling flat is ultimately disappointing.
Everything, Everything is now playing in theaters everywhere.