It’s been fun watching internet film contrarians talk about this movie. Mostly it’s reddit that comes up with all the worst takes but I’ve seen some actual respectable critics come up with some real strange criticisms. The best garbage I’ve read over and over again is that this film romanticises self harm. It’s about this girl Maddy whose immune system is so dysfunctional that to even leave her treated, airlocked, aseptic house would mean serious illness, possibly death.
But if she can’t leave the house how will she ever come face to face with the dreamy boy who lives next door and who flirts with her through her window? How will she ever know love? You know, it’s almost like, for teenagers (and hell, many adults too), love can feel like a matter of life or death. Maybe making yourself vulnerable and putting yourself out there emotionally can be risky. Stop me if I’m way too far off base here; but what if the medical condition in the film is actually a metaphor, and instead of the film irresponsibly endorsing teen suicide it’s actually taking seriously the emotional reality of its audience.
But then again, our society is still recovering from the loss of all the drownings in the wake of Titanic‘s 1998 release. You gotta wonder why all these commentators, so worried about the mental and physical health of today’s youth, didn’t object equally vociferously to this years earlier self destructive teen love movie The Space Between Us. Which is actually strikingly similar now that I think about it. Teen lives in isolation their entire life and escapes to find love and see the majesty of the world. In both movies their one true dream is to swim in the ocean. Hmm.
Everything, Everything (bad title by the way, the formatting kills it) has one huge advantage over The Space Between Us though. No sci-fi bullshit. Immediately vastly better. Also: no shitty Allen Loeb script, though thankfully most films have that one particular blessing. Ain’t to say that the one we do got is perfect though, it suffers from the worst trap that contemporary adaptations of YA novels fall into. I’m sure on the page the dialogue it’s given these teens is fun and lively, coming outta the mouths of actual humans it feels alien.
I guess this is because of the devices the film uses to make itself a film. As they constantly have walls between them they appear to IM each other most of the time. In order to keep up any sorta visual interest the film imagines these as conversations happening inside the architecture models Maddy builds as a part of her schoolwork. Imagine talking to someone the way you would over text. That’s what all these conversations feel like, too wry, too flippant, waaaay too considered. There’s a self conscious literary-ness that permeates every line spoken.
It’s not the young actors fault really. In fact, you really get a sense of their charm when the film isn’t giving them lines. They seem a much more charming and genuine couple when they’re clowning at the windows or gambolling about on their way to the beach. Amandla Stenberg, who might be one of the most awesome people in the world (and only eighteen. Seriously, how do you do it? Please tell me how you do it all.) just channels that right through into the present and engaged wonder that Maddy presents to everything.
Across from her, Nick Robinson (and I said young actors, he’s my age) as Olly is a great sounding board as the wannabe cynic who just a little too innocent to pull the act off. It’s a character we’ve seen a lot recently, it’s all the good parts of counterculture with none of the actual downside. I don’t want to see much of that character in the future. They seem to be ever so quietly destructive, suggesting that caring can only express itself as the opposite of cynicism or passion. Nah.
Unfortunately, the main hinge of the film’s story: isolation, is not treated with the respect it deserves. When our lead’s primary conflict is her struggle against her imprisonment the camera seems very free, it moves in and out of spaces, makes all this big house set seem open and light. There this wonderful moment when she finally get out the house and takes a moment, a wide static shot, time and space for the character and the feeling to breath. It would mean so much more if the film felt like it in any way built to that moment.
Like, how are we supposed to be awed by the first time this dude walks into a room with her if we’ve already seen them together? Sure, it’s in her mind palace, whatever, but they’ve been face to face onscreen. We know they’ve been talking. Film got me thinking about the cinematic language of love. I think for the most part it is being too banal. To capture love on film you have to break rules, to have to be strange and audacious because that’s how love feels.
That moment when it just holds on her outside while she waits for her boyfriend to sneak out the house. That’s what love feels like. A scene of her talking to him on the phone which is edited like a Lars Von Trier joint but it feels like love. It just feels it. Swimming in Hawaii is nice, so is a 12A rated sex scene, but none of those feel as wild as those few moments the film turns into itself and starts feeling rather than showing. What moments though.
And the girl doesn’t die at the end, so I guess love conquers all in the end. It’s nice of y’all logical men on the internet to be so worried.
Everything, Everything is currently screening in UK cinemas