Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera
I’m surprised it’s taken three years for a film to embody the ideas presented in mega summer teen hit The Fault in Our Stars. Both films are based on best-selling novels, tugging at audiences and reader’s heartstrings, as young lovers deal with devastating medical issues. The similarities end there, as Everything, Everything is a gimmick film. Cancer was something audiences cold identify and relate with to. Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) is used specifically here as a maneuver to create a ludicrous plot that plays out more like a daytime television arc. Stenberg (The Hunger Games) and Robinson (Jurassic World) are charming in their roles, but don’t reach that level of delivery Woodley and Elgort managed.
For nearly 18 years, Maddy Whittier (Stenberg) has been forced to live inside her home in Southern California due to a rare version of SCID. Her immune system is weak and making her deathly allergic to anything outside a controlled environment. Maddy’s doctor is also her mother Pauline (Rose), who suffered a tragic loss of husband and son when her daughter was only an infant. Maddy’s insular world changes when Olly Bright (Robinson) moves next door. The two exchange glances and smiles through the separating glass until they begin texting. Pauline runs a strict operation, only allowing maid Carla (Reguera) access to Maddy. Maddy’s sneaks Olly into her home prison, solidifying their connection, giving the young girl hope for a normal life.
The amount of suspended belief that’s required weakens any emotional tug the story aims for.
There are a lot of elements in Stella Meghie’s sophomore feature that work against the success of the film. The first is a choice to put the two actors together, very early in the film, delayed gratification and a longer build up would have worked better. In an attempt to visualize their text conversations, the film shows the two interacting on the sofa. This imaginary scene (complete with text key sounds behind their words) diminishes the moment when the two characters finally meet in person a few scenes later. Another stunt occurs when the characters have awkward in person conversations that are subtitled with what they are really feeling or meaning. Again, meant to be clever, instead distracts from what the actors are doing. Maddy’s mother is coined as the villain, showing no sympathy for her daughters first crush and situation. Of all the absurdity, the mother figure is the most unrealistic element in the entire movie.
In a scene where the teens escape, you might wonder how 18-year-olds rent a car, or how they book flights having no credit cards, or how Maddy magically acquires social interaction skills or learns to swim in five minutes. The amount of suspended belief that’s required weakens any emotional tug the story aims for. The third act moves us away from the love story, into bigger issues of manipulation and trust, but this 90-minute film doesn’t have the patience or the experience to tackle anything beyond a fleeting teen romance. There are so many underdeveloped plots, characters and scenarios that Everything, Everything feels a bit more like a whole bunch of nothing.
Makes the Fault in Our Stars look like a masterpiece.