A Hypoallergenic Romance
Directed by Stella Meghie
Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Released May 19th, 2017
This week I saw Everything, Everything at the cinema, cinema. Based on the bestselling novel by Nicola Yoon, this dramatic teen romance concerns a young woman turning eighteen who has lived her entire life confined to the inside of her house. When she was an infant, Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) was diagnosed by her mother, Dr. Pauline Whittier (Anika Noni Rose), as suffering from a rare condition called SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency).
Everything, Everything is a sad, three-handkerchief movie that does a decent job tapping into that feeling we all had as teenagers of being cut off from the outside world, except in Maddy’s case she is literally cut off from the outside world.
Living with SCID means Maddy’s immune system basically does not work and she could easily get sick and die just from interacting with the outside world. Maddy and her mother live together in their high-tech sterilized house, in which her mother has taken every precaution to keep her daughter safe. Maddy’s father and younger brother died in a car accident years ago and Maddy’s mom is not going to lose her, too.
Besides her mother and her nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), there are not too many people in Maddy’s life. Because we live in the age of the Internet, Maddy has it a bit better than Rapunzel did all those years ago, locked up in that tower by her mother. Rapunzel couldn’t pass the time watching cat videos on YouTube. Online, Maddy is able to take classes for school credit, update her book review blog, and keep in touch with her lone friend, Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo).
Maddy dreams of being an architect (funny for someone who has never been able to leave her house) and spends some of her time building impressive scale models of buildings of her design. She has an astronaut figure she places in these models because she considers herself an astronaut, alone on Earth like they are in space.
When a new family moves in next door, Maddy is intrigued. Especially when she sees an attractive boy across the yard, staring into her window. The boy is Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), who has moved in with his older sister, mother, and abusive father. It’s ironic Olly’s last name is Bright, because he’s always clad in black and claims to have a dark outlook on life. The movie kind of wants him to be a goth-type, but he’s got more of a surfer’s haircut and laid back attitude. I could see this guy listening to Donovan more than The Cure.
Maddy and Olly get to know one another in standard 21st Century fashion, through text messages and Skype and email and phone calls. This could be a problem for the movie, as watching people text is hella boring, but as Maddy and Olly are texting each other from their separate houses, director Stella Meghie decides to film them together, talking face to face within the walls of Maddy’s architectural designs, complete with a roaming astronaut. It’s a brilliant dream-like idea that makes those scenes in the film pop.
I mentioned earlier that Olly has an abusive father and at one point in the film, Maddy runs outside to comfort Olly after his old man decks him. Olly of course screams at Maddy to get back inside her house at once, lest she fall ill, but this episode makes Maddy question how sick she really is and if her mother has been doing the right thing all these years.
You may remember Nick Robinson from his role in Jurassic World, and with Everything, Everything he proves he may have an interesting career ahead of him. Plus his haircut in this film makes him look a bit like One Direction’s Harry Styles and I’m sure this target audience is going to be just fine with that.
Anika Noni Rose is strong as Maddy’s mother; you never question she wants what’s best for her daughter. Without a doubt the toughest role in the film is the lead and I’m not sure Amandla Stenberg pulls it off. Known for playing Rue in The Hunger Games, Stenberg must spend most of this movie in wide-eyed amazement upon experiencing simple everyday things like cars passing by and birds in the sky. I found her performance flat and unconvincing, but maybe it’s not all her fault. The confines of her character are tough to sell.
Amandla and Nick do have chemistry however, and that’s what matters in melodramatic movies like this. Everything, Everything is a sad, three-handkerchief movie that does a decent job tapping into that feeling we all had as teenagers of being cut off from the outside world, except in Maddy’s case she is literally cut off from the outside world.
I won’t go into detail, but I severely dislike the ending, which is perhaps more cruel than the filmmakers realize. With a high concept and inventive scenes, I expect Everything, Everything to play well to its desired demographic. Did I enjoy the movie? No, but it’s not really made for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide whether I want to put on an album by Donovan or The Cure.