Review: Everything, Everything

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Stella Meghie
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Everything, Everything is a film adaptation of the novel by Nicole Yoone. Despite the fact that the book employs many non-traditional elements, such as using oddly-labeled diagrams to show characters’ feelings and reveal the protagonist’s personality, the movie stays surprisingly true to the novel’s tone with its own use of gimmicks such as short animations and subtitles that show the characters’ thoughts. While there are a couple of significant differences in the movie version, it’s one of the purer adaptations I’ve seen.

Content Guide

Violence: Olly and his dad have a brief altercation, which mostly just involves shoving.
Language/Crude Humor: S**t is used once.
Sexual Content: There’s a scene where the main characters are implied to have sex, though nothing is shown other than kissing and part of Madeline’s back as Olly unzips her dress. There are a number of scenes with the characters making out, and they wear swimsuits for a portion of the film.
Spiritual Content: None.
Drug/Alcohol Content: Olly sips on something that resembles liquor. It’s stated that Olly’s father often goes drinking.
Other Negative Content: Madeline lies to her mother and to Olly. Olly’s father is an abusive alcoholic.
Positive Content: Lying and disobedience are shown to have consequences. Olly and Madeline genuinely care for one another.

Review

As someone who tends not to be terribly interested in romance stories, I’ll first say this: if you’re looking for a sappy, lighthearted, romantic girl-meets-boy drama, this movie has you covered.
I say this because, although my own thoughts on the film are mostly concerned with its non-romantic aspects, I feel the need to acknowledge that there are audiences who are really just interested in mushy love stories, and that these are the audiences to whom Everything, Everything is meant to appeal. I can’t rely on my own taste to determine how well it does this, but judging by the squeals and giggles from the many females in the theater, it was at least somewhat successful in this regard.
Having said that and despite being well outside of the target demographic, I still thought this was a decent movie. Its major plot points are nearly identical to those of Disney’s Tangled, but it manages to capitalize on its unique premise and create an entirely different feel. I was also impressed by the creators’ ability to maintain the book’s quirky tone and style. I went in fully expecting a far more serious and dramatized version of the story, and I was pleased to see that I was wrong.

Now, I’ve already conceded that this was designed to be a love story above anything else, but I thought the overt focus on the romance is actually one of the film’s greatest detriments. The fact that so much of the focus is on the romance between the two main characters, rather than on the characters themselves, means that they aren’t allowed to develop organically. I didn’t feel like I got a very strong glimpse of them as individuals outside of their flirting, which robbed their relationship of some of its poignancy.
I said before that the movie’s creators did a good job of maintaining the book’s tone, and I still hold that they did. Techniques such as voiceover, animation, and subtitles are all used to great effect to capture Madeline’s detached sort of creativity, and there are a couple of evocative scenes where text message conversations are reimagined as face-to-face talks. But the imaginative side of Madeline’s and Olly’s characters seem to melt out of them in the face of heated make-out sessions, which become more and more common as the film goes on. The closer they become to one another, the more they feel like a generic movie couple.
This leads into what I thought was the biggest downfall of the heavy-handed focus on romance. The romance, while crucial to the story, is simply not what the story is about, in either the book or the movie. The story is about Madeline venturing out into the world in spite of what it may cost her. It’s about the idea of living versus merely surviving. For this reason, I wish there had been more cinematography to portray her absolute wonder at seeing everything for the very first time. There are a few great scenic shots, but it didn’t feel like enough.
All of these elements combine to create one overall impression: while fun and lighthearted, the story feels shallow. This is an illusion, since there is a good deal of thematic depth, but the experience of watching the movie feels akin to biting through a thin candy coating and finding no chocolate beneath.
This might not even be a bad thing. Maybe it’s best for the film to allow itself to drift lazily through the minds of its viewers, rather than urging them to consider its potentially weighty themes of isolation and the value of life. For my part, despite this being a romance movie, I didn’t like that the romance was allowed to dilute so much of the story’s world and character development. On the other hand, it seems like the film is exactly what it wants to be, and I’m unsure if that makes it better or worse.

Positives

+ Believable Acting + Fantastic set design + Strong use of creative techniques + Stays true to source material

Negatives

- Rushed character development - Romance detracts from important plot points

The Bottom Line

Everything, Everything is, first and foremost, a flick aimed at those who want to see a light, syrupy love story. It has some intriguing thematic depth, but that's not what you should come looking for.

 

7.5

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Ian Hancock

Ian is a speculative fiction writer with an English degree from the University of the Fraser Valley. When he's not writing, he enjoys strategy games, sports, anime, and finding new ways to make fun of life.

1 Comment

  1. Zero Tolerance on May 23, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    So you’re telling me that Rue from the Hunger Games and Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog were featured in a low-key movie, huh? Interesting.

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