Everything, Everything may truly be one of the few book adaptations that cut what was necessary, added what was needed, and casts everyone nearly perfectly.
For nearly all of Maddy’s (Amandla Stenberg) life, of which is now 18 years, she hasn’t left her house. When she was a baby she was in Maui, but once her dad and brother died there and she got sick not too long after, apparently with SCIDs [note]For More Information[/note], her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), kept her in the house. After all, those with SCIDs have such a weak immune system that without everything filtered or sanitized, it could lead to a painful death. Something Pauline has already been through twice so she is taking no chances.
Now, as you can imagine, being cooped up for 18 years with only your mom, Nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and sometimes her daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo), to hang out with can get boring. After all, if you sit around reading all day, watching TV and movies, and just looking out the window, naturally you get curious about what it means to live. What it means to love.
Enter Olly (Nick Robinson) who moves next door and is instantly taken with Maddy, as she is him. What begins as texting back and forth turns into Maddy begging Carla to let him into the house just to see him up close, breathe the same air. However, with time, that isn’t enough. She wants to feel him, kiss him, and more. Which, once her mother discovers their relationship, so does all that Maddy knows come to an end. Leaving her to face a very tough decision. Will she at 18 rebel against her mother and face the unknown or be content to live this sheltered and lonely life? Of which, outside of her mom, and Rosa at times, that will be who she has most of her conversations with. [note]Book Change 1: Maddy is now half-white and not half-Asian (Japanese if I recall right)[/note] [note]Book Change 2: Rosa is no longer someone just talked about but someone Maddy actually hangs out with from time to time. Not often, but it is established they do have a friendship.[/note] [note]Book Change 3: We don’t see her professor for Architecture or her tutor[/note] [note]Book Change 4: As you would expect, the sex scene is vaguely hinted at and isn’t as, for a lack of a better term, graphic, as the book.[/note] [note]Book Change 5: If I recall right, what triggers Maddy getting sick in Hawaii was seafood. She just gets sick because of a weak immune system in the movie.[/note] [note]Book Change 6: They speed up the whole “I’m not sick” thing.[/note] [note]Book Change 7: Maddy does a handstand to show off and Olly doesn’t do not a single one.[/note] [note]Book Change 8: Olly going on the roof doesn’t happen at all.[/note] [note]Book Change 9: Rather than feature a bunch of text bubbles going back and forth, Olly and Maddy talk inside the different architecture models she makes. Usually with the astronaut watching and sometimes interacting with her.[/note]
Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson
In the nicest way possible, Stenberg inhabits within the awkwardness which is Maddy. The way she stares at Olly, seems unable to know what to do with her hands, the way she walks around him at first, it all really pushes the idea that this is a girl who hasn’t much experience with boys. Especially boys who she has an interest in.
But it also goes beyond that. For me, it is rare to find myself smiling just for the hell of it. Heck, crying for any reason but death or some kind of setback is rare. Yet, the way Stenberg and Robinson interact, it is like the purest of love you have ever seen. It is slow, curious, and questioning. Cautious because of her assumed disease and because he doesn’t understand it well. Yet, because their hormones and feelings are so overwhelming, they find it too hard to eventually not move closer, to not touch and eventually kiss.
I mean, despite both being in their late teens, there is something so cute and pure to them. Not to the point this seems watered down, but like it is from some bygone era where both leads had romance in mind, weren’t focused on getting to have their first time [note] Though they still have sex, without there being any note of a condom. But, then again, the sex is only hinted by him unzipping her swimsuit and us seeing, assumingly, some part of Stenberg’s side or leg.[/note], and their fights made sense. That is, rather than something out of left field and dramatic which requires a grand gesture to make up for.
The Way Stenberg is Shot
Usually, cinematography goes over my head since my focus is more so on character development and story. However, for once, I had to take note of the technical aspect because I just can’t recall a camera so lovingly going over a Black woman’s skin. And I mean lovingly without some sort of innuendo for it really does seem to just want to highlight the beauty of Stenberg’s melanin, the curls on her head, and even the little hair or perhaps acme bumps. It brings you sort of into Olly’s mind of taking in this girl who has been locked away in her house all this time and yet, look at her. Who wouldn’t want to show her off?
On The Fence
Consistent Use of Animation and Subtitles
One of the things which I enjoyed, but wasn’t consistently used, was the animations, drawing, and even inner thought subtitles. We see this mostly in the beginning of the film, like when Maddy explains what SCIDs is and when she and Olly first meet in the sunroom, but after that, they aren’t really used.
With this Mommy Dead and Dearest movie drawing comparisons, and Pauline being like many an adult in a YA novel adaptation, meaning she is given the bare minimum of development, it makes it hard to understand her side to things. Unlike, say, Regina in Switched at Birth, you don’t see any real time and effort to understand why this adult, for years, was able to keep up a lie. One which wasn’t something as simple as pretending Santa or the Easter Bunny exists, but keeping an entire life away from their child. And while you get it, it is because she lost her husband and son in a car accident, I don’t think we get the full extent of how that mentally screwed her up into being able to keep up this charade with Maddy, and bringing other people into it, for 18 years.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Is Everything, Everything groundbreaking? Kind of. If only because finding a Black lead in a movie like this, especially a Black female, who isn’t dealing with bullying or prejudice is rare. Also, being that there aren’t a huge amount of well-known YA novels featuring Black, in this case bi-racial, young women, also gives the movie a feather in its hat. However, here at Wherever I Look, being a special snowflake doesn’t get you brownie points.
Leading to why this is marked Positive. What Everything, Everything does feels like it opens a door. It isn’t satisfied with just being one of the few, or perhaps the only to some people’s knowledge. No, it wants to set a standard. It wants to show the beauty of curly hair, a Black woman’s skin, and not through sexualizing her, per se, but just noting how dreamy it can be to really look at a Black woman. Also, through Stenberg, we get what almost seems like a sense of realness. She isn’t just copying what she assumes are Maddy’s traits, but tapping into her own awkwardness and bringing it to the character. She finds ways to take you on the same journey she went on to discover and understand Maddy, as does Robinson with Olly.
Though perhaps what really makes this film is that it is just plain sweet. It makes you smile so gaily that you probably look like you’re in a trance and watching Maddy find love can make you happy enough to cry. For while Rose may not drive it home for why Pauline was so cautious, everything else gets to your emotions in ways most films use pain, defeat, or a well-deserved triumph to get. Meanwhile, this film just relies on its actors and boy do they deliver. So head out to see Everything, Everything in a theater near you.