Everything, Everything may not be considered groundbreaking cinema in general, but for this new crop of films adapted from Young Adult bestsellers, the stunning visuals and pitch perfect performances help the new film stand out among the rest.
It’s the eye-catching details that add new layers to the film. At the start, Maddy’s (Amandla Stenberg) 100+ fresh pressed white shirts say a great deal about the character, who suffers from a severe autoimmune disorder that makes the outside world a fatal threat. The white shirts are her uniform of sorts for a life imprisoned at home for the past 17 years. The stark, clean white fits the aesthetics of the modern sleekness of Maddy’s surroundings and the lightness of her feelings. She dreams of wearing a white swimsuit and floating in the brightest blue ocean – a stunning visual that evokes how deeply Maddy yearns to be a part of that world. It’s also why it’s interesting that when she does finally dive into the ocean that her swimsuit is a sunny, rich yellow, a telling choice that proves crisp white isn’t always an accurate reflection of the unexpected colorful moments of living life to one’s fullest. For Maddy, truly living is being outside.
Following Nicola Yoon’s bestselling novel closely, the romance between Maddy and the boy next door, Olly (Nick Robinson), is charming. Olly enters her life dressed in all black with a big dash of confidence, despite coming from a home with an abusive father. Olly captures Maddy’s attention and sets off her imagination. Director Stella Meghie brings whimsy to their burgeoning romance, with their text conversations re-imagined with the two charming teens talking in person inside the architectural mini models of diners, libraries and more that Maddy builds at home. It not only sells their romance faster, for the sake of its 96-minute run-time, but solidifies the strength of their connection. So, that when Maddy is willing to risk her life to help Olly when he’s at the receiving end of his father’s fist, it’s not that far of a reach.
As the two grow closer, Maddy’s wardrobe begins to show more color. On the surface, it’s to impress the cute boy who likes her back, but it also showcases Maddy’s hope against all hopes to be part of the outside world.
Everything, Everything is a bright film, and together with a dose of magical realism, Meghie shows how visual style can improve what would normally be considered an average teen melodrama. While the romance has some richness thanks to the sweet chemistry between Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, it’s not the most compelling part of the film. Maddy’s illness and her relationship with her mother (Anika Noni Rose) would’ve been something I’d like to see explored a little deeper. Considering the film’s disappointing twist, the only thing that felt disingenuous (for a mostly sincere story), a stronger focus on the mother and daughter relationship could have served the story and its ending better.
Regardless, Everything, Everything is another step in the right direction for teen films. Diverse, ambitious and well-made, it’s proof that inclusivity in front and behind the scenes goes a long way in making movies that audiences haven’t seen hundreds of times already.
Everything, Everything is now playing in theaters.