Mark Reviews Movies

Everything, Everything


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Stella Meghie

Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube R. Hermosillo

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and brief sensuality)

Running Time: 1:36

Release Date: 5/19/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 18, 2017

A pair of charming romantic leads can overcome just about anything, and Everything, Everything gives us one. They're played by Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson as a couple of just too shy, just smart enough, and just plainly likeable teens who fall in love under difficult circumstances. It's starting to feel as if imminent death is becoming a standard in teenage romances such as this one, so it's a bit refreshing to see one that's all about the promise of life.

Still, the shadow of death ostensibly hovers over this story, too, although, if one believes that is what's really happening in this story, I have a very nice bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan to sell to you. The real shadow hanging over this tale of potentially star-crossed lovers is the inevitability of learning what is actually happening here—and, especially, how the screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe will handle it. Maybe that's why the complications come across as a distraction, or maybe it's simply the fact that not much of significance happens here once the two teens begin their romance.

That means the central performances are more important and carry more weight than should be expected of the actors. They're up to the task, which isn't to say that these are exceptional or deep performances. No, the performances are a bit trickier than that, because the screenplay and director Stella Meghie essentially have put the entire burden of the movie's success on them.

Stenberg and Robinson don't just have to be charming. They have to be charming to the degree that the entire movie depends on how charming they are. That would be unfair to any actor. The reason these two performances work is that the actors seem as if they aren't acting. There's a naturalism to their charm that is, well, just the right level of charming.

Stenberg plays Maddy, who has just turned 18 and has lived most of her entire life in a house. She informs us through narration that she was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (The acronym is SCID, which is pronounced "skid"). Through a too-cute cartoon, she explains that the rare disorder results in fewer and weaker lymphocytes than normal, meaning that she's incredibly susceptible to disease. Being outside the sterile environment of her house could result in her death.

Maddy's mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), a doctor, is also her primary caretaker. The mother is especially careful, since she lost her husband and son in a car crash a few months after Maddy was born. Pauline is aided during the day by a nurse named Carla (Ana de la Reguera), who is also Maddy's best friend.

New neighbors move in next door—a family of four that includes Olly (Robinson). Olly and Maddy silently share some long stares and big smiles. The two can see into each other's rooms, and Olly woos her with some prop comedy involving a Bundt cake that Pauline turns down (Maddy can't eat food from the outside world, either). He writes his phone number on his bedroom window, and as teens are prone to do, they start texting back and forth.

Meghie visualizes the lengthy conversations without resorting to a long scroll of text on screen, thankfully (At a certain point, though, one wonders why the two don't just, you know, call each other). Maddy, who has an active imagination and an interest in architecture, imagines herself and Olly talking in various models she has made—a cozy diner for the getting-to-know-you stuff and running through a huge library during a tougher conversation about where this relationship could possibly go. The two—both the characters and the actors—have a good rapport, although the movie can't help from adding the too-cutesy detail of an astronaut trying to drink a milkshake through its helmet.

On its surface, the story alternates between cheesy and melodramatic, and in terms of what we learn about the characters, it isn't much. Maddy later reveals that she loved Olly before she ever spoke to him (which should be a bit of a warning sign for Olly that maybe the young woman, who has never spoken to a boy before him, might have a slightly naďve perspective of love). Olly is infatuated with Maddy at first sight and does everything he can to convince her that he's worth the trouble. He also has some difficulties with an abusive father at home, and if that sounds like the movie might be exploiting abuse for the sake of a sappy teen romance, well, just wait for the third act's most significant development.

As Maddy's desire to see the outside world and live a normal life increases, there's some questionable thinking on the part of both characters (Maddy goes overboard, and Olly is pretty irresponsible with the health of the woman he loves by going along with it, given the transparent falsehood of her excuse). The point, one supposes, is that none of this is rational, because it's love. The actors almost sell that idea, but the mostly hollow Everything, Everything abandons all rationality—and a good portion of its decency—by the end.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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