A teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door.
“Everything, Everything,” based on the book by Nicola Yoon, is a teenage love story with a powerful twist. Amandla Stenberg is stunning as the main character Madeline Whittier but fails to completely grasp the innocence necessary for a girl stuck in the same four walls for her entire life. Nick Robinson co-stars as the heartthrob who forces Madeline to withdraw from her claustrophobic life. The problems with his character Olly, do not fall on his shoulders, but on the writers who left important defining elements out of the movie which were well represented in the novel. With most of the movie taking place in Madeline’s home, the cast is limited, and the previously mentioned characters shine brighter. An invisible barrier prevented perfection in the novel before also translating to the screen. The crisp plot does entertain but should have left a feeling of completion with the end credits.
Madeline Whittier lives in her home with her mom with just her day nurse Carla for company. Forced into a reclusive life by SCID, or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, Maddy spends her days absorbing the world through books and the internet because she is allergic to the world. Then Olly moves in next door. Through windows, Olly and Maddy create a tangible relationship as their love moves past the obstacles of Maddy’s illness.
When Olly and his sister show up one day with a cake in greeting, Maddy’s mom, Pauline makes known Maddy will not be allowed to communicate with the outside world. Pauline wants to protect her daughter not just from illness, which can walk in through their air controlled mudroom, but also from the people who can make her see beyond the life she has always lived inside her protected walls. Olly and Maddy find ways to communicate anyways. Smiles through windows, texting, emailing and daydreaming about a life where they are not separated. An astronaut, often used for Madeline’s homework, helps with their restricted communication in an enjoyable fantasy set of fantasies.
Carla decides Pauline is wrong to create such a socially limited life for Maddy and invites Olly into the house for a visit. Soon a second visit takes place. Then Madeline gets sick, and her mom finds evidence of Olly’s visit and fires Carla for her part in the secret. Carla should not have allowed someone into the house who could pollute Maddy’s carefully orchestrated environment. Pauline then tells Maddy she cannot have Olly in her life, leaving her as her daughter’s only companion in life.
Madeline is not satisfied with a life without Olly, or a life without living. She convinces Olly to leave and take a trip to Hawaii to see the ocean and her favorite fish. The weekend becomes not just a romantic getaway but a first time experience of the outside world for Maddy. First time in a car, the first time feeling the sand under her feet, the first time in the ocean, and more firsts than any eighteen-year-old should experience. Then her heart stops. She is in the hospital dying. Her mother shows up and takes her home. Olly moves back to New York. Maddy is alone again with her mother and the secrets trapping them together.
“Everything, Everything” was almost more enjoyable on screen. The film version tried hard to incorporate bits and pieces of the imaginative world Maddy was forced to live in onscreen but fell a bit short, reasonable translation gap to be expected. The general ideas are fully encompassed though, except for the whirlwind storm encompassing Olly’s life and forcing him to conceal his pain in black attire. Some areas did not translate well, or at all, such as Carla’s understanding of the dynamics of the household and the meaningful relationship she shared with Maddy.
Little is told about the illness and what is seems out of a textbook and fails to translate to a believable illness for the otherwise healthy appearing Madeline. Love seems to be the focus, even more so than a desire to be in the world where the sky reigns. As a love story, this film shines. As a story sharing the journey of a girl’s illness, the movie and the book could have seemed less clinical and more emphatic. “Everything, Everything” will easily entertain the target audience, young teens caught up in the newness of love and pheromones. Adults will see the problems and plot holes as a nuisance, capable of being overlooked for the sake of the love story. Enjoy this film for the beautiful scenery and eclectic understanding of a girl who grew up in a bubble.
In theaters Friday, May 19th