Everything, Everything is a sickly sweet yet well-adapted film based on Nicola Yoon’s novel. Although melodramatic, it will likely work with younger audiences.
Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) has never left her house because, as she describes it, she is essentially allergic to everything, due to a nonfunctioning immune system. Her only interactions are with her mother and her nurse, and occasionally the nurse’s daughter. One day, Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door, and the two begin a friendship communicating through text or signs in the window. Maddy begins to risk her health, by potentially exposing herself to germs, as she and Olly begin to fall in love.
There is nothing wrong with the young adult genre. However, something that appeals to teenagers, in this case probably more tweenagers, will not necessarily appeal to anyone older. Something that makes a young adult movie an actually strong movie is if it is able to appeal to all demographics. While countless other movies have done this, Everything, Everything feels too shallow and melodramatic to become a classic. While both this and The Fault in Our Stars could probably be considered “sick-lit,” Everything, Everything feels weirdly escapist, while The Fault in Our Stars challenges the audience to think.
Everything, Everything is, however, an incredibly strong adaptation. It follows all the important, memorable beats of Nicola Yoon’s novel, never taking any liberties. While some of the quirkiness of Maddy’s imagination is present, her drawings, which made the book unique, are largely left out. Additionally, parts of Olly’s story are left out. However, the movie becomes incredibly less dramatic and suspenseful if you have read the book. For example, while knowing the ending of The Fault in Our Stars did not really affect the power of the movie, knowing the twists in Everything, Everything makes it feel more tedious.
Despite the lack of depth, Everything, Everything is stylistically accomplished. One of the challenges of this story is that many of the conversations happen through text messages. Instead of just making the audience watch phone screens, the conversations are transported to the imaginary world of Maddy’s architecture project. This brings in the quirkier qualities from the book, and makes this mode of communication a strong and interesting choice. This is especially highlighted through an Astronaut, a recurring figure in all of Maddy’s projects, who silently reacts to the conversation. He is probably the best thing about the movie.
The Astronaut is so absurd, that he highlights the rest of the absurdity of the situation. He brings much levity to a movie that could turn rather dark. The humor this brings is not so much dark humor, as something of this genre can sometimes turn to, but this is more of a refreshing self-reflexive humor. Although his appearance is brief, the Astronaut’s presence strengthens the entire movie.
Everything, Everything would fall flat if it were not for Stenberg and Robinson’s performances. Individually, either could have chemistry with a rock, and watching them together is hypnotic. While Stenberg expertly handles Maddy’s subtleties, she slightly falters during more dramatic scenes. This seems to be more the fault of the story as it sometimes becomes disingenuous.
Everything, Everything is hampered by the fact that it feels contrived. This adds to the escapism quality of the movie, but moving past this layer, the story falls apart a little. Much of this comes from the twists in the story, but also through Olly’s character. Olly is essentially just this perfect guy. He is a near male counter-part to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. His arc does not really matter, except to further Maddy’s story, as it even only happens through the lens of the security camera on Maddy’s house. At least he is not portrayed in a toxic manner like the MPDG. Talking about toxic portrayals, it also does seem weird that Stenberg is fairly sexualized in this movie.
Everything, Everything likely will not become a classic but it is still an enjoyable experience. The movie does tend to lose focus, lavishing far too much time on the pretty scenery and sets, and the longing looks between the protagonists. Stenberg’s and Robinson’s genuine performances ground the otherwise melodramatic movie. The Astronaut saves this movie.