Kernel Rating (out of 5): (4 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. This teen romance has the typical elements: some flirting, some kissing, an implied sex scene, and a girl lying to her mother about her feelings for the boy; some infrequent cursing and a joke about teen pregnancy; the mention of relatives who passed away in a car crash and a few scary hospital scenes; an abusive parent and a fistfight between a father and son; and an emotional subplot that involves parental deceit.
The YA-lit adaptation ‘Everything, Everything’ uses the strong chemistry of its young actors to tell a story about teen acceptance, understanding, and love. The film takes a few narrative shortcuts, but its youth romance is fantastically adorable and undeniably charming.
By Roxana Hadadi
Catharsis is underrated, and it’s exactly what “Everything, Everything” delivers in fantastic fashion. This film version of the popular YA-lit novel by Nicola Yoon offers an adorable cast, a pitch-perfect soundtrack, and creative adaptation choices, a combination that makes up one of this summer’s most emotionally satisfying films.
Yoon’s original novel is a menagerie of text and illustration, a novel that almost seems like multimedia with its use of doodles, sketches, mockups of computer programs, and other journal-style imagery. Paired with first-person narration from protagonist Maddy, the novel truly feels like a glimpse inside a teenage girl’s mind, with all of its quirks, interests, and secrets. Comparisons have been made to other popular YA works like John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars,” and it’s certainly true both that film adaptation and this one are perfect for their niche teen audiences and are enjoyable for older viewers, too. The emotions developed here aren’t childish, but universal. To shrug away these films because of their young characters would be a superficial mistake.
“Everything, Everything” focuses on 17-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg, of “The Hunger Games”), a girl who has never been outside her (admittedly beautiful) Los Angeles home. The place is covetable – all exposed wood, marble, and soothing tones – but it’s a very comfortable prison that Maddy can never leave. “My immune system sucks,” she says, and she’s essentially allergic to everything. The air could kill her, or the trees, or the common cold. She celebrates her 18th birthday with her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), who is also her doctor, but the passage of time “means nothing inside here.” She is never going to get out.
Her day-to-day existence of writing pithy online book reviews, building projects for her online architecture class, and joking around with her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera, of “The Book of Life”) is interrupted, though, when new neighbors move in next door. Of particular interest is Olly (Nick Robinson, of “The Kings of Summer”), a lanky, sarcastic, clad-all-in-black figure whose gaze immediately meets Maddy’s when he skateboards down the street. It’s the kind of look that promises both euphoria and trouble, and so of course the two begin a secret friendship through texting, online chatting, and lip-reading through their bedroom windows. But a simple friendship isn’t what either of them wants, of course—they each want everything the other has to give. With Olly outside and Maddy inside, though, isn’t that impossible?
In book form, “Everything, Everything” boasted exceptionally well-crafted characters, each with rich interior lives: Maddy had an affectionate friendship with Carla, favorite teachers, and deep regret for her inability to know her dead father and brother; Olly was close with his sister, protective of his mother, and sardonically funny. Elements of those personalities remain, but for the most part the film version of “Everything, Everything” leans into their dynamic as a couple more than individuals, and sometimes the film suffers without that comprehensive development. Truthfully, Stenberg and Robinson are adorable together—it is literally impossible not to grin in glee when they kiss for the first time—but their characters are each flattened in ways that will be disappointing for book readers.
There is so much charm in “Everything, Everything,” though, in the way Maddy struggles to position her body when around new people, so unaware of social norms, or in how Olly amuses his crush with a long-running joke about an unappetizing Bundt cake, or in the way the film conceptualizes Olly and Maddy’s text conversations, imagining them as life-size inhabitants of blown-up versions of Maddy’s meticulously crafted architecture projects. Screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe (of weepy romances “The Age of Adaline” and “The Best of Me”) may have skimped with fully rounding out Olly and Maddy, but director Stella Meghie ensures that their young romance feels genuine, not juvenile.
By the time the film reaches its conclusion, you’ll be through the emotional wringer, yet the finale feels jarringly rushed—things wrap up in ways that don’t feel big enough for the twists and turns that came before. This is a movie that respects its characters so much that you’ll be a bit surprised by where it leaves them. Nevertheless, “Everything, Everything” ultimately provides the right kind of summer pick-me-up, a movie that earnestly believes in the values of trust, life, and love. A few plot holes are easy to overlook for all that.
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