Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing a sump­tu­ous fan­tasy of teen love

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - KATIE WALSH Tri­bune News Service

The sickly teen ro­man­tic weepy isn’t ex­actly a new genre — con­sider the 1970 smash hit “Love Story” — but it’s gained resur­gence in the past few years with the run­away suc­cess of the likes of “The Fault in Our Stars.” The suc­cess or f ail­ure of such a film, which can so of­ten dip treach­er­ously too far into sen­ti­men­tal­ity, rides on the plucky charm of its lead ac­tors. For­tu­nately, “Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing,” based on the novel by Ni­cola Yoon, has the ra­di­ant Amandla Sten­berg at the cen­tre.

Sten­berg’s re­laxed charisma car­ries what’s a rather pre­pos­ter­ous premise. She plays Maddy, an 18-year-old girl who’s been con­fined to her her­met­i­cally sealed, ster­il­ized high-end mod­ern home for her en­tire life, to avoid the threat of in­fec­tion. She’s got Se­vere Com­bined Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Dis­or­der, or SCID.

But all it takes is a glimpse of a mov­ing truck and the new hunk next door to burst Maddy’s care­fully cu­rated bub­ble. Af­ter a few furtive glances with Olly (Nick Robin­son), and a few texts, the two are quickly down the path to f alling in love, a se­cret they keep from her con­trol­ling physi­cian mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose).

Aside from its lead­ing lady, what “Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing” has go­ing for it is its light, fan­tas­ti­cal es­thetic, an un­ex­pected sense of buoy­ancy and light. Maddy has a highly de­vel­oped imag­i­na­tion, in­formed by the books she reads, and the ar­chi­tec­tural mod­els she builds. Di­rec­tor Stella Meghie sets the text con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Maddy and Olly in the din­ers and li­braries she de­signs, which brings a vis­ual in­ti­macy to their bud­ding con­nec­tion and a quirky sense of hu­mour and style to what could be rather maudlin and staid pro­ceed­ings.

Olly is, un­for­tu­nately, un­der­writ­ten. Like many of the male leads in films of this ilk, he is only de­fined by his love for Maddy, which seems to spring out of thin air. Robin­son brings the right kind of pup­py­ish af­fec­tion, but facets of his per­son­al­ity and back­story are only sug­gested — an abu­sive f ather, an affin­ity for math and skate­board­ing. Mostly all we know about him is he is un­wa­ver­ingly de­voted to Maddy and her hap­pi­ness. Maddy’s no­tions of her own hap­pi­ness in­volve the ocean, Hawaii and un­fet­tered ac­cess to Olly.

Like all reck­less, wan­ton teens in love through­out his­tory any­thing is pos­si­ble, and if it isn’t, they’ll try any­way. “Ev­ery-

thing, Ev­ery­thing” is a sump­tu­ous fan­tasy of teen love taken to the high­est stakes with the threat of fa­tal ill­ness, but with­out any of the un­ap­peal­ing phys­i­cal symp­toms. There is no del­i­cate cough­ing into a hanky here.

“Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing” plumbs the lim­its of dis­be­lief at times, but be­fore this light as air love story floats away en­tirely, it re­deems it­self with a dark, f as­ci­nat­ing plot de­velop­ment that grounds it firmly to earth. You al­most wish that more at­ten­tion would have been paid to this part of the story, ex­plor­ing the psy­chol­ogy and con­se­quences, rather than swoon­ing over the shal­low love story.

WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Nick Robin­son as Olly and Amandla Sten­berg as Maddy in “Ev­ery­thing, Ev­ery­thing:” a movie with an “un­ex­pected sense of buoy­ancy and light.”

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