Everything, Everything follows Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars as the summer film most likely to make teens cry. It is essentially Bubble Boy without the bubble or humor disguised as a teen romances wrapped around an aggressively underwhelming twist that will make people of all ages groan with its unrealistic depiction of young love and disease.
Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) is a brilliant and curious young woman who has just celebrated her eighteenth birthday. While others her age are preparing for college and celebrating the end of school, Maddy is sitting at home with her mom, watching Moonstruck for the umpteenth time and eating cake. Maddy and her mom do this often because it is one of the few things Maddy is able to do. She suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which basically means she is allergic to everything and therefore unable to leave the hermetically sealed comfort of her home.
It is clear Maddy longs to know the world she has never experienced, but she is more or less resigned to a life indoors when a charming new boy, Olly (Nick Robinson), moves in next door. Through text conversations that play out on screen like dreams set in one of the many models Maddy has built in her room and extended sequences where each character stares smirkingly at the other from their bedroom windows, viewers witness young love blossom between Olly and Maddy. The connection they share is unlike any has felt for the other, which leads Maddy to risk everything in an attempt to experience the real world with Olly at her side.
Everything, Everything follows an incredibly predictable and unabashedly cheesy path to developing the romance between Maddy and Olly, but it is executed as well nonetheless. You want to root for their love, if only because it is literally the only thing that happens on screen for the first half of the film. The sluggishness is eased through the decision to show text conversations as if they were real talks being had in a fictional place. We see Maddy and Olly exchange words in diners and libraries they’ve never actually visited, with each one saying “ellipses” whenever things get awkward. It’s a fun way to shoot what are largely uninteresting exchanges, and it elevates the film above the corniness of its dialogue.
Where the film falls short is in its handling of the film’s second, far more complicated half. To say much more would be to spoil what little surprise does exist, but suffice to say what should be a climatic moment feels rushed for no discernible reason other than keeping the runtime as tight as possible (96 minutes, to be precise). Once the big reveal happens, the story rushes even more, exchanging potentially powerful exchanges for a montage of events that come and go as narration from Maddy waxes poetically about confidence, risk, love, chance, and all sorts of things that make wanderlust a term found in the Instagram profiles of young adults all over the world. It works, but not as well as you know it could.
Stenberg does well in the lead role, presenting Maddy as both wide-eyed and intelligent. She’s a hopeless romantic who is smarter than everyone else in the room, and balancing that assuredness with the foolishness love can create is a challenge she rises to meet. Likewise Robinson, who has already impressed with films like The Kings of Summer and Jurassic World, continues to prove he could very well be Hollywood’s next A-list leading man.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Everything, Everything is basically Bubble Boy without the laughs or bubble. For some readers I would guess that is enough information to spoil the film’s twist, but if so then at least those readers don’t have to worry about wasting their money on a potentially underwhelming experience. I no doubt believe there will be many young fans of cinema who take to this story of runaway love, but for the more experienced moviegoer there is very little here that you hasn’t been done – and done better – before.