By Daniel Reif
They coddle with cuddles. We pause in “awww”. Lovely, but the common absence of a compass for love make young adult novels a challenging read for us outside the demo. Thus so, theatrical adaptations as Everything, Everything often meet our virgin upon meeting our screens. I haven’t brushed a sentence of Nicola Yoon’s romantic drama about a teen girl who must liberate herself from domestic medical exile to be with the boy next door, and like many anyone, the sophomore effort from director Stella Meghie (following her 2016 debut, “Jean of the Joneses”) will surely face trouble in satisfying the resonance won in long form.
Barriers suck, but ‘yo’, this movie literally doesn’t try. Like seriously.
If you read up on (or just read) the novel, the inviting appeal is its detailed, dreamy imagery. In Meghie’s take, her crew are all-hands-on-deck to color the frames with crystal white ambiance sunk into aqua blue bluster. For a flick mostly placed in a single spacial setting, the visual tapestry must embrace atmospheres both roomy by inside and relished by outside, and the work from cinematographer Igor Jadue-Lillo is silky smooth against spying skylight on rural furnish.
The eye candy treats, and in a YA film, the sweets are imperative glitter to gloss the good-looking leads. Amanda Stenberg and Nick Robinson are those leads, and they feed off this candy.
They, too, live off it. Young love is an ethereal spiral well honed by the actors’ game gaze-swapping, but to win a gazing crowd- demo or not- dream must spiral into lesson. Everything, Everything is a whirlpool of manipulative mold- pained by plum plot, mindlessly derivative of its genre’s mindful successes, and worst, absurdly unchallenged by challenging realities put forth.
For 18-year-old Maddy (Stenberg), her bedroom window is her best friend. Sidelined by a tragedy that struck her body with an autoimmune disease at grade-school age, half of Maddy’s life has been confined to the walls of her suburban two-story. Wonders for the wide world outside oppress her spirit in a household where decisive doctor-mom Pauline (Anika Noni Rose) protects the den through strict guest access only offered to warming nurse/caretaker Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and her Maddy-age daughter Rosa (Denube Hermosillo).
Our introduction to the claustrophobic environment opens the flick half-cocked. Yoon’s world fires proud acceptance of a multicultural space (Maddy is biracial, her mom is black, and Carla and Rosa are hispanic) occupied by intelligent and hard-working women, but very little contextualizes a family unit of bland tonality. Mom is mean. Carla is caring. You can count Rosa’s lines on one hand. Backstory will eventually offer relief down the road, but the present humanities of this collective is never thrown much range to digest. Just saying, her window view is more interesting for a reason (not my business though…).
Nick Robinson helps. When his family moves in next door, “Olly” moves fast into Maddy’s scarcely divided attention. As soon as arrival, the glass-barred ‘Juliet’ instantly catches cute eyes with a ‘Romeo’ not unlike a ‘Romeo’- lustful long hair, a champion’s smile and vulnerable pupils to reel the deal. A hint of dork rounds an exterior of a heartthrob who probably had a rad Pokemon card colection when he was younger. This is the full package curly-haired-bookworm Maddy has longed for and with Olly’s bedroom conveniently straight across from hers, texting will temper the isolation and harbor a love. “Awww” pausing notes and faces lead to first lip contact; burning desire births unfound bravery; big hearts open bigger worlds. The spine of this YA film, this YA duo will give their YA viewers a YA romance to briskly rouse their YA souls.
Again, you wish to credit this fantasy for wrapping fantasy in a progressive match between unaffected races. Again, open-mindedness cannot best narrow direction. In fact, as the flick develops, social issues actually surface without any devoted criticism attached. Parental abuse particularly plagues and bonds both lovers. You’ll cast the flick as rubbish when Olly’s in-home haunt is mentioned maybe twice, and cement a reaction of blasphemy when the movie’s capping twist should equalize major prison time for Maddy’s mom. In sum, Everything, Everything makes one of the classic mainstream movie mistakes: to be everything.
This poor product is not the fault of its stars (genre reference, check!). Is it Yoon? Is it Meghie? Is it simply my age? These are the questions which will bother the many who charitably offer their time to this copied journey. Nevertheless, at the final frame, most outside the teen demo (and even many in it) will stand up with the same feeling: crystal white nothingness.
Screenplay by J. Millis Goodloe (Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon); Directed by Stella Meghie – 2017 – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer – PG13 – 1hr 36m
May 26, 2017
“Everything, Everything” is currently playing at a theater near you.
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