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Thursday, May 25, 2017 12:04 am

Two young leads nearly save Everything

Nick Robinson as Olly and Amandla Stenberg as Maddy in Everything, Everything.

 

Stella Meghie’s Everything, Everything is the sort of movie that’s easy to scoff at. A tale of young love replete with improbable events and inexplicable actions, the film is one of extremes, mercurial in the way it changes tone and ridiculous in the situations it presents. Cutting to the chase, it’s perfect for the teen audience it’s pitched towards, the ones who made the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon a bestseller. Needless to say, this is not for cynics or those who don’t believe in romantic destiny. You’ve been warned.

Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) thinks of herself as an astronaut, trapped in a self-contained suit, cut off from the world and everyone in it. This stands to reason as she’s been diagnosed with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, a condition that leaves her highly susceptible to disease and makes her more likely to have allergic reactions to the most common things. Her mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), who happens to be a doctor, has kept her in the house since infancy, with Maddy reduced to looking at the outside world through the windows in their posh house. Needless to say, the young lady doesn’t know what she’s missing, but her curiosity about what happens outside her prison as well as a few other things are stirred by Olly (Nick Robinson), another 18-year-old whose family has just moved in next door.

I don’t have to tell you that Olly has a clear complexion, a great sense of humor and is, in the parlance of yesteryear, “dreamy.” If he were any other way, that would introduce a sense of reality this film has no time for. Instead, cute ways are devised for these two to get together, as they flirt via conveniently located windows and through the wonders of texting, with their initial meetings facilitated by Maddy’s nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera). Things go from tentative to true love in a matter of days, and before you know it, Maddy’s no longer wondering what goes on outside her home, as she runs away with her new love all the way to Hawaii – from seclusion to paradise.

As I said, it’s a movie of extremes, but thankfully the two young leads take a low-key approach to their roles that helps us stick with the film long after its lack of logic makes us want to throw in the towel. Stenberg has the more difficult part and accords herself nicely, bringing a sense of ease and sincerity, never opting for the obvious choice in any given scene. There’s a natural quality about her that’s nicely matched by Robinson, who doesn’t let his inherent charm get away from him. It becomes apparent early on that he could dominate any scene he’s in with an “Aren’t I Cool” approach. He resists the temptation to hog the spotlight and the result is a grounded sense of chemistry between the two, who, under the guidance of director Stella Meghie, give us realistic characters.

This is vital, as the climax is a shameless example of Deus ex machina that will only be swallowed by those who have no idea what this term means. That being the case, the filmmakers are safe. Yes, Everything, Everything is a whole lot of sincere silliness that dares the discerning viewer to dismiss it. That we don’t within its first twenty minutes is due to its two young leads, who deserve a better script to cut their teeth on.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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