James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Young adult material isn’t inherently bad, but like any film, this should be handled with care, especially when the source material is a #1 New York Times Best Seller. EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is schlocky, which isn’t really the film’s problem. Big, bold romances can be hypnotic, yet this story of young love is surface-level and ignores the nuances that are never uncovered and purposefully ignored.
We can say what we want about teens, but many are deep-thinkers with complex problems. Some are old enough to know better and young enough not to care. Director Stella Meghie seems to forget this in the tale of Maddie Whiittier (Amanda Stenberg), an 18-year-old woman who hasn’t left the lush confines of her modern home due to a chronic immune system deficiency know as SCIDS, a.k.a. the “bubble boy” disease. Under the care of her mother and doctor (Anika Noni Rose), she has lived a literal sheltered existence with minimal social interaction, aside from her nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera). Looking out her window she discovers a hunky bad boy named Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), who moves in next door. He’s equipped with knowledge about literature and has a mane of hair that dreams are made of.
Their love blossoms despite a lack of physical contact. This is an admirable notion, for sure, yet the script by J. Mills Goodlow completely disregards intellectual conversation in favor of puppy love chit chat. At no point does their romance have a natural progression. He brushes his hair back, she fidgets with her sweater — blah, blah. This milquetoast romance wants to tell us they’re in love, but lacks the authenticity that allows the audience to feel. It’s a movie that has nothing to add to the genre, forgoing plot developments for two minutes of bubblegum pop music playing over montages that resemble a promo add for Hollister clothing company. The saving grace is the whole film’s absurdity that makes it worth watching.
There are solid YA romance adaptations that have hit theaters in recent years, just look at THE LONGEST RIDE, ENDLESS LOVE and the excellent weepie THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING neglects the charm and a capable directing style to mine the depths of these characters that are going through serious issues, like a legit psychotic mother, an abusive father and a life-threatening illness. These things are difficult for anybody to discuss, much less teens who could have been provided an outlet to vent the perils of their life, but nope, all we get is a trip to Hawaii and a swim in the beach. A rainbows-and-butterflies tone doesn’t fit this material whatsoever; not saying this has be akin to 13 REASONS WHY in tone, but the premise, which is inherently fascinating, fails because of its shoddy filmmaking.
There is a character in EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING that has major psychiatric issues, yet the plight and feelings of this character are ignored in order to vilify and create tension that doesn’t exist. This is a story that’s made for those looking for the Cool Whip of movies, and that is OK. But can we try just a little bit harder, please?
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is now playing nationwide.