We've arrived again at that special time of year, when teenage romantic dramas with a strong undercurrent of death come waltzing by to drive young audiences to tears. We all have our sickness riddled go-to, be it the more recent "The Fault in Our Stars," early 2000s' "A Walk to Remember," or something as old as "Love Story." It's a formula that works like gangbusters. For the most part, you have your generation's version of the story and then you move on, growing up and realizing how melodramatic it all was, while the latest flits across the screen for a new generation to soak up. "Everything, Everything" contentedly slides into this mold, with little effort to be anything special.
Our perpetually ill center this time around is Maddy, a 17-year-old girl with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID for short. As the exposition-laden opening of the film lets us know, SCID means that Maddy has a hard time fighting sickness, and as a result must spend her life confined to her home. After spending years in the house with only her mother, her nurse, and her nurse's daughter to interact with, Maddy catches the eye of new neighbor boy Olly as he moves in. As is to be expected, the two fall for one another over furtive glances with a swiftness that only adolescence allows. So begins their quest to be with one another, when something as simple as a kiss could spell doom for Maddy.
The rest of the film plays out pretty much how you would expect it: Being a teenager is hard, love is everything (everything), and parents are the worst. But if you came to be wowed by story or surprised by plot development, I kind of doubt that you're the film's target audience. Admittedly, it even feels weird for me, a 30-year-old married man, to throw judgement at "Everything, Everything." This movie was never supposed to connect with me. In fact, it so often had me rolling my eyes and wondering adult questions like, "Now who's going to pay that credit card bill" that I may as well have been angrily telling it to get off my lawn.
Despite coming from the mind of an adult and produced by people that likely wear suits most days of the week, "Everything, Everything" feels so locked into a teenage mindset that it's difficult to enter from outside that area. It so positively asserts that love is everything, that to think otherwise makes you feel like a cynic. Even more so, it carries this unearned gravity that moments that should tug on your heartstrings leave you groaning in annoyance. If the point of the film is to tell a story from that perspective, but in a way that betrays that singular mentality, then I suppose the film succeeds. But at what cost?
As a film, "Everything, Everything" is certainly fine. The camera is always pointed in the right direction, the art direction is quite nice (honestly, I would happily be stuck in this house for 17 years), and director Stella Meghie does an admirable job of making what are essential prolonged text conversations, at the very least, watchable. What eventually saves the film from utter obscurity are the central performances.
Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson have fantastic chemistry, selling moments that have no right to succeed. As actors, they are devoted to the material, which is admirable if a bit misguided. Their relationship is believable, even when it shouldn't be, and because of their individual and collective charms you can get swept up in moments, even while failing to connect with the film as a whole. Stenberg has proved that she could do plenty with little since "The Hunger Games" and Robinson was the emotional core in the wonderful "Kings of Summer." In "Everything, Everything," they continue to deliver performances that have you hoping that they can get more out of their careers. They certainly deserve better than this.
The toughest thing to swallow with "Everything, Everything" is that it's just more of what you've seen before. Its genre is well-trod and there isn't a whole lot of exploration of anything special this time out. It is anchored by fantastic performances and the visuals are often intriguing, but it fails to delight in a way that reaches more than the groups of kids that need to be dropped off at the theater by their parents. That is not to denigrate films of this ilk, but you come to hope that when we've traveled this far down the line, maybe, just maybe, we will get to something different. Alas, "Everything, Everything" seems perfectly fine with being exactly what you expect it to be.
InfoRuntime :: 96 mins
Release Date :: May 19, 2017
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States
CastMaddy :: Amandla Stenberg
Olly :: Nick Robinson
Pauline :: Anika Rose
Carla :: Ana de la Reguera
Kayra :: Taylor Hickson
Rosa :: Danube Hermosillo
Joe :: Dan Payne
Mae :: Fiona Loewi
Astronaut :: Sage Brocklebank
Mr. Waterman :: Robert Lawrenson
Dr. Chase :: Peter Benson
Dr. Francis :: Françoise Yip
Ruby :: Farryn VanHumbeck
Nurse Janet :: Marion Eisman
Police Officer No. 1 :: Allison Riley
Surf Shop Cashier :: Valareen Friday
CrewDirector :: Stella Meghie
Screenwriter :: J. Goodloe
Producer :: Leslie Morgenstein
Producer :: Elysa Dutton
Executive Producer :: Victor Ho
Cinematographer :: Igor Jadue-Lillo
Film Editor :: Nancy Richardson
Original Music :: Ludwig Göransson
Production Design :: Charisse Cardenas
Art Director :: David Clarke
Set Decoration :: Shannon Murphy
Costume Designer :: Avery Plewes
Casting :: Mary Vernieu
Casting :: Venus Kanani
Casting :: Tiffany Mak