A sick teen trapped in her house falls for the boy next door
Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson in Everything, Everything
** ½ out of 5 | 96 min. | PG-13
by Marc Savlov
Based on the YA novel by Nicola Yoon, this above-average, young love weeper manages to hit all the genre notes—yawn—but holds your interest by the remarkable performances of leads Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson. She’s 18-year-old Maddy who, as explained in voiceover and animation, suffers from an autoimmune disorder that has prevented her from leaving her airlocked, spick-and-span Los Angeles home for as long as she can remember.
Maddy is bookworm smart, beautiful, and a budding architect via online schooling. When hunky brooder Olly (Robinson) and his family move in next door, Maddy spies him from her bedroom window, they lock eyes as he skateboards by with a tentative wave, and the race to true love is off and running.
Maddy’s mother (Anika Noni Rose) is a physician—which explains their Better Homes and Gardens-worthy house—who takes daily blood tests of her daughter, monitoring the disease’s progress, or apparent lack thereof, along with the family nurse, Carla, who facilitates the budding romance in a way that inevitably leads to what may be disaster.
Director Stella Meghie plays around with little tricks such as displaying Maddy and Olly’s text conversation in print onscreen, since the two can’t be in the same room together due to Maddy’s illness, and also borrows a trope from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in which the insecure subtext of a verbal conversation is also shown onscreen. Hey, if you steal, steal from the best.
As YA adaptations go, this isn’t quite The Notebook, but teen girls will be more than satisfied. Some might be put off by an out-of-the-blue revelation that flips the whole tone of the film. But that’s always been key to angsty teen love stories, as far back as when poor Sal Mineo lay dying in James Dean’s arms in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. Love kills, but sometimes it doesn’t, and therein lies its enticing essence.