by Hope Madden
One special girl + a solitary, attentive, very cute boy + contrivance that keeps them apart = every single adolescent drama made in the last decade.
Director Stella Meghie can do that math. For Everything, Everything, she works from the YA novel by Nicola Yoon, adapted for the screen by the adequate emotional manipulator J. Mills Goodloe (Best of Me, The Age of Adaline).
The film updates that Boy in a Plastic Bubble TV movie John Travolta made back in the day, here with a perky adolescent girl named Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) whose rare immune deficiency keeps her locked away inside her sterile home.
Then Dreamboat Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door.
Meghie and her cast deserve credit because their film has a sweet if utterly artificial charm to it. The handful of fantasy sequences set inside Maddy’s architecture models are appealing, as is the awkward and innocent chemistry between the leads.
Not one human being on earth has ever been this wholesome and adorable, but as YA lit flicks go, it could be much worse.
Tragedy looms darkly over most young adult romances – like a watered down Nicolas Sparks movie. Maddy’s ailment keeps death always in the periphery, but the film zigs when you think it will zag.
Meghie keeps almost everything restrained, which is both the film’s blessing and curse. Too often in movies of this ilk, the drama becomes so soapy as to be intolerable. Maddy’s coming-of-age choices feel more self-empowering than love struck, and her easygoing, forgiving nature keeps the tone just this side of angsty.
On the other hand, when the narrative takes a bizarre – almost diabolical – turn, that laid back approach feels neutered. Real rage is called for. Police intervention. A good slap, anyway.
But Meghie doesn’t indulge our lust for drama, which would be admirable if her film weren’t so bland.