- Girl behind the glass: Maddy (Amandla Stenberg)
“If I went outside, I’d die.”
That’s the bummer that sets up Everything, Everything, Stella Meghie’s teen romance, adapted from Nicola Yoon’s young-adult novel. Eighteen-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) hasn’t been outside her hermetically sealed home for 17 years; she has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), and is mortally vulnerable to everyday pathogens. The only people she sees are her doctor mom (Anika Noni Rose) and a daily nurse.
Despite growing up in a box, Maddy seems grounded and socially normal. (She also seems vigorously healthy.) She keeps herself busy reading, writing micro-reviews of books, taking architecture classes online and building scale models of neat places she can never visit, like a vintage-style diner. She adds a tiny plastic astronaut to her models, noting that like her, he is stranded in space.
Then — what luck! — a cute boy moves in next door; conveniently, their bedroom windows face each other and soon they are waving, pantomiming, texting. Also, conveniently, Olly (Nick Robinson) is one of those only-in-the-movies teen-age boys: floppy hair, sweet and sensitive, prone to poetical statements, a perfectly well-behaved “rebel” (one of his things is wearing all black).
Despite warnings, Maddy falls for Olly, and vice versa, and romance blooms. I appreciate Meghie doing some visually fun stuff to enliven their text conversations; for instance, the teens wind up talking in a full-scale version of Maddy’s diner, and even the astronaut stops by. It’s all pretty goony chitchat, but that’s to be expected.
As is the inevitable: Newly awakened to life and all its risky pleasures, Maddy decides go outside. To wit: It is better to have loved, gone outside and died, than to have stayed inside, lived and watched Moonstruck again. Naturally, this in-the-wild sequence is beyond unbelievable, but it has pretty people, pretty clothes and pretty scenery. Just let it roll over you like the artificial breeze it is, because this film’s final act is some grade-A what-the-hell?!
I can’t talk about it here, but let’s just say it’s a bit of a head-swivel, and it doesn’t quite play well with the winsome, virtually content-free teen rom-com that precedes it. But, like a serious illness, there it is — and viewers are just gonna have to deal with it.