Movie review: Good performances and a high cuteness factor don’t make ‘Everything’
Looks like there’s always going to be room for yet another disease of the week movie. But this isn’t your run of the mill ailment; it’s Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or SCID, a condition that leaves its victim with a severely damaged immune system. In plain language, 18-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg, who played little Rue in “The Hunger Games”) is allergic to everything, and has been restricted to staying inside her mom’s stylish, glass-walled house since she was diagnosed as a toddler.
It’s a good thing that Maddy has an easygoing temperament, that she’s a shining case of passive acceptance. She’s fine with sitting at her laptop and taking part in online support groups or devouring every novel that comes her way or watching cat videos.
At least she’s not truly alone, not stuck in a small enclosure like Jake Gyllenhaal was in the 2001 film “Bubble Boy” or John Travolta was in the 1976 TV movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” She has the run of the air-locked house; she just can’t go outside. And she has the company of her always concerned and loving mom (thank goodness she’s a doctor) and visits from her nurse Carla, and Carla’s daughter Rosa (all of whom we must assume are regularly decontaminated).
Yeah, this restricted life is OK with Maddy ... until a new family moves in next door in the film’s suburban California neighborhood, and one of the new residents, who she notices through her window, is dreamy looking Olly (Nick Robinson, who played the older brother Zach in “Jurassic World”). Of course, he notices her right back. Soon there’s a great deal of staring through windows, which leads to texting back and forth, with the film gaining some neat visual tricks as those texts are displayed onscreen.
Let the cuteness factor begin, and then spiral upward toward ultra cuteness. Maddy always wears white; Olly always wears black. Their texts make each other smile, widely. The film manages to break the constraint of the constant texting business by imaginatively placing them in the fantasy world of a restaurant where they can pretend that they’re actually speaking with each other in the same room, even though only the words of those texts are spoken.
In due time, she tells him exactly what’s wrong with her, and that meeting up would be an impossibility. But they’re teens, they have feelings, strong feelings. Yet she knows that no matter how attracted she becomes, even a little kiss could kill her. Could kill her, not will kill her; no one really knows.
Somehow, a complicated and very secret visit (don’t let mom know) is arranged, one that involves decontamination and air locks and a promise to stay on separate sides of the room. It’s a shy, nervous, sweet visit, and both young actors present very natural performances.
There’s a lightness and brightness to the film, but there’s also a problem with it in that there are all sorts of hints to a possible dark side of the story that need some filling out. We need to know more about a long-ago tragedy in Maddy’s family that’s only briefly mentioned. There’s a lack of clarity about a troubling situation involving Olly’s dad.
Maddy makes what could be a life-changing or even a life-threatening decision, but the way it’s pulled off in the script is quite a stretch, and it doesn’t ring true. It’s not going to be a surprise to anybody that sickness makes an unwelcome appearance at a critical point in the story, but a combination of too much coincidence and some inauthentic behavior by one of the characters ends up marring the film’s credibility
If you’ve read the popular young adult novel by Nicola Yoon, you know what’s coming, and there’s really not much need to see this competently made, but uneven film. If you haven’t read it, the film will likely come across as a simple but pleasant surprise.
-- Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now.
Written by J. Mills Goodloe; directed by Stella Meghie
With Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose