Review: ‘Everything, Everything,’ Starring Amandla Stenberg And Nick Robinson

Let me say this first: Yes, I suppose you could assume that Everything, Everything is a spiritual cousin of The Fault In Our Stars, and you could shrug them both off as “Sick teens fall in love, whatever.” But that would be pretty superficial, a mistake in writing off a film that offers a consistent amount of charm and charisma from its adorable cast. If the teen movie genre is dying, at least Everything, Everything came out before the niche fully vanishes from the big screen for the likes of Freeform and the CW.

Adapted from the impossible-to-put-down YA book by Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), who suffers from SCID, a serious condition that basically renders her allergic to everything. Being outside could kill her, so she spends every single second of every single day in her (unbelievably gorgeous) Los Angeles home. Her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose) is her doctor, her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) is one of her closest friends, and Maddy spends her days reading classic literature and designing and building projects for her online architecture class. “My immune system sucks,” Maddy bluntly says, and there’s nothing to do about it.

But her curiosity about and desire to see the outside world seems to flourish all at once when new neighbors move in next door, including the clad-all-in-black, sardonically funny, extremely cute Olly (Nick Robinson). When Olly and Maddy lock eyes through her bedroom window, it’s one of those jolting moments that simultaneously means euphoria and trouble—and as they begin to text each other, their friendship slowly transforms into something more. But Maddy is stuck inside, and Olly is out there—how could they come together, how could they live, how could they love?

To give away more would be to give away too much, and it’s a pleasure that Everything, Everything mostly provides its characters with time to grow into their feelings before expressing them. As we knew from her turn as Rue in The Hunger Games, Stenberg has a remarkably expressive face, and you sense layers of emotion lurking below her every move: There is happiness when she plays board games or watches movies with her mom, but wariness too, that this is all her life will be. Robinson is delightful, with a sarcastic half-smile and honestly concerned eyes, and when he looks at Maddy, you’ll understand how the two drive each other crazy. There is legitimate chemistry here that makes their whole star-crossed teen-lovers thing relatable and memorable. They are awkward, they are uncomfortable, and they care desperately about one another. It’s impossible not to root for their love story.

What hurts the film, though, is its rush to conclusion after it spends so much time establishing how these characters interact and how they relate to each other. The last 15 minutes move lightning quick, thrusting Maddy, Olly, and the people they care about into situations that don’t quite make sense and into emotional responses that don’t quite feel real. Mostly this is because the movie strips away some of the needed context and inner narration from Yoon’s original novel, streamlining the plot in a way that denies it full impact and denies us total access to Maddy’s thoughts and concerns. When the movie needs to go fully there, it steps away instead of stepping in.

Still, Everything, Everything is the kind of teen movie we need right now—one that treats its diverse cast with respect and its interracial relationship like it’s no big deal, one that presents a world in which anything is possible for its inhabitants, for better or for worse. It is easy, especially in our current world state, to be cynical. Everything, Everything makes a case for earnestness, affection, and understanding, and this summer, that may be what all of us—teens and otherwise—need.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Guttenbergs