Dir: Stella Meghie
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson
Runtime: 1hr 36min
Spoiler Level: Light, mostly; discussion of the ending will be below a “Read More” and will be preceded by a bold warning.
I have a policy about films with approval rating below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is to not spend money to see them in theaters unless I have some sort of investment in the story/previous films/source material. Even scores in the 50’s are questionable. But, since I read and enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s YA novel Everything, Everything last year, I figured I might as well head out for Tightwad Tuesday and see how well the pages transitioned to screen.
Everything, Everything follows 18-year-old Maddy (Stenberg), who suffers from an illness that severely cripples her immune system and basically makes it impossible for her to go outside. But when Olly (Robinson), a boy her age, moves in next door, Maddy starts to wonder even more about what she is missing out on. As she and Olly grow closer, Maddy decides that she wants to experience everything, no matter the cost.
Overall, I’m not a stickler who believes that book to movie adaptations have to be 100% accurate and true to the book, so I’m usually not a “the book is so much better” person. For a novel to make the leap to screen, changes always have to be made. Always. Sometimes, the changes can be for the better, as with The Lord of the Rings, or they at least stick mainly to the source material, like Harry Potter. However, they can also totally decimate the work on which they are based, like the Percy Jackson movies. Sea of Monsters is flat-out unforgivable.
Luckily, Everything, Everything, while it trims plot-lines and neutralizes characters, doesn’t fall into the “decimated” category. From what I remember of the novel, the film stays close, and the heart of the work – Maddy’s relationship with Olly, and her evolution as a person – is not severely damaged by the changes. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but I’d say it’s acceptable, and nowhere near Percy Jackson territory.
Stenberg is charming and bright as main character Maddy, and Robinson is equally as effective as her co-lead, Olly, although he does need a haircut. I’m glad he managed to escape that crazy dinosaur park, though. Unfortunately, Olly also gets less development than Maddy; they touch on his history and the issues he’s facing with his family, but don’t explore as deep as the book does, which made his character seem “unresolved” in some ways. He’s kind of relegated to “cute boy next door with some emotional baggage” but doesn’t get as much exploration or resolution. As a pair, their chemistry is convincing, but their connection suffers from the same pitfalls as several similar films/projects; it treads the dangerous line of “insta-love.” I didn’t really feel that way about the book, as their relationship seemed to grow over a greater length of time and with much more conversation, but in the movie, while their relationship is totally adorable, the risks that Maddy ends up taking just seem… a bit rash. But hey, it’s teenage romance, and maybe I’m getting jaded in my old age. I will say that as a duo, Maddy and Olly are mega adorable and felt more or less like a real young couple than some unrealistic idealization of teen romance.
The “texting” sequences are especially impressive and engaging; I liked the visualization of Olly and Maddy being inside Maddy’s architecture projects, speaking face to face, as opposed to through a screen, as it helps to better portray the development of their romance. The little pop-ups representing their email/text interaction works too, but I’m glad it didn’t dominate the entire film. Could have done without the narration, though; that’s something YA novel adaptations can’t seem to get away from, but it’s a superfluous inclusion that defies the “show not tell” mentality and undermines a viewer’s ability to draw conclusions on their own. Like, there are other ways to include exposition without a narrated info-dump at the beginning. Also, I must say, the astronaut is definitely the best supporting character in the film.
Other supporting characters of the fairly small cast include Maddy’s mom Pauline, played by Anika Noni Rose. Her portrayal is equal parts calculated and loving as she juggles the dual role of mother and doctor and grapples her own demons while dealing with Maddy’s illness. Ana de la Reguera is great in her role as Carla, Maddy’s nurse, as she does a great job of showing how Carla sympathizes with Maddy and wants her to experience at least a few aspects of a “normal” life. But really, it’s Stenberg and Robinson that helm the ship, and they do a fair job of plucking at your heartstrings; it’s easy to root for them and hope for a happy ending, even in the face of such bleak, unrelenting odds.
As far as other elements go, the music is nice; I’m not a big fan of insert songs, but the choices seem to fit the narrative, and the score was charming, if not exactly memorable. I loved how Maddy’s wardrobe changed over the course of the film, reflecting the growth in her character – even Olly trades in his signature black for a spot of color at one point. The sets are decent and the colors pop, and, as I mentioned before, the visuals are utilized in a compelling way. All in all, each portion of the film is solid and comes together smoothly; it looks and sounds great.
If you’re a fan of Yoon’s writing or are a hopeless YA fan (like myself) just looking for a way to pass a rainy day, then Everything, Everything is definitely worth a watch. It’s a touch cliche, it’s escapist (to a degree), and it’s a love story – all the ingredients of great young adult media But if such content really isn’t your style, it might be wiser to sit this one out.
Overall rating: 7/10
DISCUSSION OF ENDING AND SPOILERS BENEATH THE “CONTINUE READING,” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I actually predicted the twist in Yoon’s novel (that Maddy doesn’t actually have SCID) really early into reading the book, so it’s hard for me to say whether or not the film version is equally predictable. Honestly, I’ve read so much YA it’s just hard to surprise me, but the film definitely leaves clues. I’m not saying that’s a negative, either; it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book or the film, BUT some folks might consider that a drawback.
But I have the romantic capacity of a thimble, so Maddy’s decision to risk her health (AND LIFE!!!!) by going to Hawaii with Olly is just… foolish, to me. Like, by the end of the film you know that Maddy hasn’t been sick all that time, so her decision doesn’t seem that drastic, but she didn’t know that when she booked the flights. Therefore, there was (as far as she knew) a very real possibility that she was going to die. For a boy she’s known less than a year, basically – and I just can’t get behind that. Call me a cynic, that’s fine. I don’t have that sort of restrictive, dream-crushing illness so I can’t say for sure what I’d do in that situation, but I just can’s abide by someone making a choice like that in the face of such potentially dire consequences.
Also, I just want to say that I would be SO, SO PISSED if my mother lied to me the way Maddy’s did; and in both the novel and with the film, I was impressed that Maddy did not immediately forgive and go back to her mother after making that bombshell discovery. She cuts ties, and even if it’s temporary, I thought it was infinitely more realistic and a far more justified response to the literal 18 years of imprisonment her mother forced her to endure. Like, I get that it’s because Pauline was emotionally traumatized and just wanted to keep her daughter safe but FOR PETE’S SAKE, MADDY DID HER WAITING – 18 YEARS OF IT. So when she gets on that plane and flies off to reunite with Olly, all I have to say is YOU GO GIRL!!!!!