tv + film by Philbert Dy

The Charming ‘Everything, Everything’ Takes a Very Wrong Turn

A clunky third act gets in the way of a sweet teenage romance.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsEverything, Everything is about eighteen-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), who hasn’t been outdoors since she was a few months old. She has a rare immune deficiency disorder that makes any contact with bacteria or a virus potentially fatal. So she lives in a hermetically sealed home with her mom (Anika Noni Rose), taking architecture courses online, and basically resigning herself to a life without the outside world. But then Olly (Nick Robinson) moves into the neighborhood, and the two quickly form a connection. And it just gets to the point where Maddy contemplates risking her life to spend some time with the boy she likes.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.35.24 PMFor most of its runtime, Everything, Everything is a sweet little story about young love, finding potent dramatic fuel in turning the recklessness of teenage infatuation into a genuinely life-threatening situation. For the most part, the movie is able to smartly convey those first few sparks of romance, buoyed by charming chemistry between the leads, and writing that while cutesy, still comes off as pretty smart. And once the film offers up Maddy’s first few tentative steps into a world that could potentially kill her, it does a great job of selling the thrill of all the things that most people probably take for granted.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.39.48 PMBut the movie doesn’t just stay with the romance and the challenges inherent to this unusual setup. It becomes much less about the joys of being young and reckless and willing to risk everything, less about how getting to know somebody might just change the way you see your life. It becomes about something else, and that casts a weird shadow over everything that went on before. The third act is basically built on a revelation that doesn’t do the story any good, cheapening the experiences of its characters to a degree that feels unacceptable.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.38.16 PMBut until it gets there, it’s a fun ride. The film tackles the challenge of visualizing a relationship that takes place mostly over text messages. It finds clever ways to bring the characters together, using elements of the story to turn text conversations into real conversations. It’s smartly able to convey how even these mundane exchanges become a real escape for Maddy, fueling her imagination in ways that seem to have been unavailable to her until she started considering the possibility of being in love.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.37.31 PMThe two leads are perfectly capable of what the script asks of them. Amandla Stenberg is charming on her own, and benefits from her easy chemistry with co-lead Nick Robinson. Even when just looking at each other through their windows, even when there aren’t any words of dialogue between them, both are able to really sell the attraction between the characters. Stenberg is given the meat of this movie, and she does not waste the opportunity. The joy of her character in exploring the world for the very first time is palpable, and that goes a long way in delivering the particular pleasures of this story.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.38.05 PMEverything, Everything feels deeply flawed, but one can’t quite write off the things that it does right. It is quietly refreshing, for example, that the film features an interracial pairing and doesn’t ever even need to bring it up. For as long as the film focuses on the thrills of a first love, on the understanding that any first romance is essentially a giant risk, it works rather well. The film doesn’t quite leave on the right note, but there is plenty merit in all the notes it plays along the way.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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