EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, US, 2017. Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, and Ana de la Reguera. Directed by Stella Megghie. 91 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, sex scene and infrequent coarse language).
Everything, Everything is something of a contemporary fairytale. It is set in affluent California where money seems to be no object and so everything is possible.
The film also dramatises inter-racial themes but does not draw attention to them explicitly, leaving the audience to accept the realities.
The film is very much geared to feminine sensibility, director, the original Young Adult novel by Nicola Yoon, as well as most of the central characters. Female audiences, older and younger will be able to identify with the characters, and young male audiences should find Nick Robinson’s Olly sympathetic.
The initial voice-over comes from a teenager, 17 turning 18, Madeline, Maddy, played with some charm by Amandla Stenberg. We learn immediately that she is confined to her home and has been since she was a young child, diagnosed with a severe auto immune deficiency. She cannot go out, has lived inside the house, relating to her mother who is also a doctor and cares for her and a visiting nurse who sometimes brings her little daughter. Otherwise Maddy has no communication outside but has a greater yearning, as indicated in the opening credits where, in her imagination, she looks through the glass window and it breaks and she steps through and then floats in a pool.
Some audiences may remember the John Travolta television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Other moviegoers may recall the plot of a lesser-known farcical comedy, Bubble Boy, with a young Jake Gylenhaal who has been confined to a plastic bubble in the house, not allowed to go out, cared for with ultra-attention by his mother. It played on comedy. This scenario is much more serious.
One day Maddy notices a family arriving next door, especially the teenage son of the family, Olly, Nick Robinson. He and his sister bring a bunt cake as a neighbourly gift but Maddy’s mother rejects it. However, beginning with eye contact and waves, the two begin to communicate, especially when he holds up a page from the window with his mobile phone number and the communication begins.
While we know that Maddy would like to get out of the house but is apprehensive about her condition, we don’t quite know what is going to happen in terms of this teenage attraction and relationship.
We might guess that at some stage Maddy and Olly will meet and that Maddy’s mother will not be best pleased. Then, will Maddy go out of the house, risking her health for Olly’s sake, testing out how ill she is or not?
As the film goes on, it seems less and less plausible in terms of realistic action, especially in the character of the mother and her motivation and love for her daughter, in Maddy’s motivations for decisions and the consequences.
Yes, there have been some teenage stories of romance where the heroine actually dies, so throughout the film we are actually open to whether the love story is one of happiness or one of doom. So, no spoilers in this review.
Roadshow Released 24th August
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.