The Fault in Our Germs?
The trailer for Everything, Everything makes the film look like the most putrid and pretentious piece of young adult garbage. With a premise that’s already hard to take seriously (Bubble Boy meets The Notebook), the film had a lot of work to do in convincing me that this wasn’t going to be unbearable. Fortunately, Everything, Everything is less intolerable and more just middle of the road. It’s an average YA adaptation with a bit of underlying charm and a pair of compelling lead performances fighting to drown out the manufactured sentimentality within this overplayed genre.
As she reaches her 18th birthday, Maddy Whittier (The Hunger Games’ Amandla Stenberg) longs to escape her medically confined house arrest and explore the outside world. Maddy has a rare disorder that weakens her immune system, making exposure to even the common cold potentially catastrophic. She is only allowed to have contact with her paranoid mother (Anika Noni Rose) and her wholehearted caretaker Carla (Ana de la Reguera).
Any satisfaction she has with a life of reading books and designing restaurant models is thrown out the window when Olly (Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson) moves next door. Olly’s your typical Hollister bad boy; desperately in need of a haircut, exclusively dressed in black, and always with his skateboard in tow. Through their adjacent windows, the two strike up a forbidden romance, not allowed to be in the same room let alone touch each other.
Burdened with a restricting romantic premise, director Stella Meghie uses one or two clever directorial techniques to confront the issue of having the film’s love story take place mostly over text message. Everything, Everything uses the required quirks of its YA protagonist to its advantage, visualizing the development of Maddy and Olly’s relationship within the models that Maddy has sculpted. This allows the two leads to interact and develop a rapport even when their characters are limited.
It helps that both Stenberg and Robinson are terrifically charming in their roles and share a calming chemistry. Stenberg’s wide-eyed curiosity and innocence is distinctly not mistaken for a lack of intelligence, as she imbues Maddy with a quiet courage similar to Shailene Woodley’s performance in The Fault in Our Stars. Robinson has a difficult job in another sense, having to show love with little trace of pity for this very sick girl. His character’s severely underdeveloped, with subplot daddy issues that really don’t inform who he is as a personality, but his performance picks up a lot of the slack.
Beyond these positives, however, Everything, Everything disappointedly succumbs to pretty much what’d you expect from this type of film. There’s plenty of over-the-top romantic gestures, such as the eye-rolling moment when Olly tapes dozens of oceanic photos to Maddy’s window so he could “bring the ocean to her”. The plot features several contrivances that go well beyond even the slight terms of reality the movie has agreed to, particularly a third act change of scenery that serves as an accidental indictment of both credit card companies and the TSA. The pop song soundtrack frequently intrudes and rarely adds anything to the heat of the moments that the two young leads are trying to create.
The target audience for Everything, Everything will love it, and I don’t necessarily resent them for it. While I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the film, I do appreciate the small little flourishes and touches that counteract the problematic habits of the genre, but it’s not necessarily enough to erase my own hangups with the premise. The charm almost makes Everything, Everything recommendable, which is a long way from my begrudging attitude going into it.