Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing de­liv­ers noth­ing, noth­ing

Va­pid tale clue­less when it comes to young adults in lust

The Daily Observer - - ENTERTAINMENT | CLASSIFIEDS - CALUM MARSH

Maddy Whit­tier (Amandla Sten­berg), the hero of Ev­ery­thing,

Ev­ery­thing, likes build­ing ar­chi­tec­tural mod­els in her bed­room and writ­ing pithy book re­views on the In­ter­net. Her favourite word is “ux­o­ri­ous,” she swoons to

Heart­beats by Jose Gon­za­lez and she is a great ad­mirer of An­toine de Saint-Ex­upéry.

Maddy is, in short, the kind of bright, plucky teenage girl fa­mil­iar from any num­ber of young-adult nov­els and their seem­ingly in­evitable stu­dio adap­ta­tions — with the salient dis­tinc­tion that she is pos­sessed of the un­com­mon im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency dis­ease that rather fa­mously con­fined a lit­tle boy to his ster­il­ized bub­ble. Maddy yearns for a life rich in fam­ily-friendly ado­les­cent ac­tiv­ity. Maddy, alas, must not leave the de­con­tam­i­nated quar­an­tine of her bour­geois sub­ur­ban-Cal­i­for­nian house.

Be­cause this is a histri­onic young-adult drama whose va­pid­ity is cliché-or­dained, our Maddy one af­ter­noon finds a fetch­ing boy named Olly (Nick Robin­son), as a new next-door neigh­bour. The two

quite nat­u­rally meet-cute from afar and sum­mar­ily fall in love. Maddy and Olly can­not touch one an­other or even be in the same room at the same time. Her fa­tal con­di­tion for­bids any con­ven­tional con­tact — and so the be­sot­ted pair are re­signed to de­velop their af­fec­tion through an inch of im­per­me­able glass. A ro­mance of Shake­spearean pro­por­tions blossoms as they gaze out smit­ten from op­po­site bed­rooms win­dows. They make eyes, text and fan­ta­size about all they might do face-to-face.

This high-con­cept story is of course a sort of para­ble: ah, com­mu­ni­ca­tion me­di­ated by glass, you see, is the mod­ern con­di­tion, and the film pro­poses that there isn’t very much dif­fer­ence af­ter all be­tween a win­dow­pane and the screen of your phone. Teenagers will re­late to this chron­i­cle of a re­la­tion­ship wrenched apart by cir­cum­stance, the think­ing goes, be­cause the re­la­tion­ships en­joyed by teenagers to­day tend widely to be con­ducted at a sim­i­lar re­move. Maddy and Olly’s in­firm af­fair be­ing, in other words, not un­like a young cou­ple dat­ing over IM and Skype. Tech­nol­ogy has made pos­si­ble a range of con­nec­tions and in­ter­ac­tions that would have been un­think­able even a decade ago. The ef­fect of such ad­vances on mat­ters of the heart is what this film seems for a time in­tent, not un­in­trigu­ingly, to ex­plore.

As it hap­pens this ex­plo­ration is lim­ited by del­i­cacy — and by the de­mands of a PG-13 rat­ing. Have you any idea what two lust­ing 18years-olds are likely to get up to at night with an in­fat­u­a­tion and a front-fac­ing cam­era? Rather more than the whole­some flir­ta­tion this movie de­murely sug­gests, to be sure.

Maddy, pure as the driven snow, seems frankly in­ca­pable of en­ter­tain­ing a sala­cious thought about her paramour, and what de­sire she shows for him has been neutered into a more vir­tu­ous emo­tional long­ing; the air of in­no­cence is so thick that their re­la­tion­ship seems not only im­plau­si­ble but ut­terly car­toon­ish,an out-of-touch adult’s idea of what goes through young peo­ple’s heads. When Maddy and Olly do con­sum­mate their ro­mance, it is as chaste as First Com­mu­nion.

How can any in­ter­est­ing com­ment be made about how we live to­day if the re­al­ity of that liv­ing is so deco­rously re­jected? It’s a para­ble com­pro­mised by po­litesse.

PHOTO COUR­TESY WARNER BROS.

Nick Robin­son and Amandla Sten­berg in Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing (2017).

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