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Sterile 'Everything, Everything' is a linear, unmoving teen romance

Posted May 20

Nick Robinson as Olly and Amandla Stenberg as Maddy in "Everything, Everything." (Deseret Photo)

“EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING” — 2 stars — Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson; PG-13 (thematic elements and brief sensuality); in general release

For teens who want to lose themselves in a shallow romantic daydream of a film, “Everything, Everything” has just enough to pull the wool over their eyes. But director Stella Meghie’s film pales next to its competition and even has the unfortunate audacity to suggest where you should go instead.

Based on the book by Nicola Yoon, “Everything, Everything” is a romance about a homebound teenager who falls in love with the boy next door.

Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) hasn’t left her home in 17 years. Aside from her mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), Maddy’s only human contact comes from her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo). Everything else is filtered through her phone and the internet (insert your own millennial joke here).

According to her mother, Maddy has a rare immunodeficiency disease called SCID. Essentially, she’s allergic to everything. But, fortunately for Maddy, her lavish home — Pauline is a successful doctor — has big windows, so when the boy next door moves in, she notices him right away.

Olly Bright (Nick Robinson) is lanky, with long hair and dresses in all black all the time. He looks a lot like the imaginary boyfriend Riley dreams up in 2015’s “Inside Out,” and shows similar dramatic development.

Pauline tries to keep Maddy and Olly apart, but in no time — first through texts, then through clandestine meetings arranged by Carla — the two fall in love. Olly is perfectly charming, always says the right things and seems preternaturally attuned to all of her needs.

Once Pauline inevitably discovers the pair has been meeting, she fires Carla and takes away Maddy’s phone and internet privileges. So Maddy convinces Olly to fly to Hawaii with her. Better to risk an early death while living than to live a long and miserable life in a sterilized box.

There’s never too much question where things are going, and a clunky late twist puts the big picture in creepy relief more than it enables a happy ending. For the most part, the plot moves in an almost straight line, only wavering at the hint of conflict.

Obstacles in “Everything, Everything” are about as imposing as the naïve standards Olly and Maddy set on their relationship. When Carla allows Olly to first visit Maddy, he promises to stay on the opposite side of the room, but in no time, he is kissing her. Later, in Hawaii, approximately 30 seconds after assigning sides of their shared bed, they are having sex.

Meghie does try to inject some unique personality in places. Maddy is an aspiring architect, and “Everything, Everything” periodically breaks away into creative fantasy pieces where Maddy and a quirky astronaut character inhabit life-size renderings of her models. There is also some vague symbolism cooked into the characters’ clothing choices — the African-American Stenberg always dresses in white, while Caucasian Robinson dresses in black — though the message is never totally clear.

At one point, Maddy and her mother are watching Norman Jewison’s classic “Moonstruck” on television. This sets up a joke about Olly’s lack of movie appreciation — seriously, viewers know next to nothing about this kid — but more importantly, it shows the audience where it should go for a much better romance. “Moonstruck” has infinitely more character and charm than “Everything, Everything,” and leaves the latter feeling sterile by comparison.

“Everything, Everything” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality; running time: 96 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on <a href='https://www.youtube.com/moviereviewsbyjosh' target='_blank'>YouTube</a>.

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