Teenage love beats disease
yearning, a princess trapped in a castle. Because of the severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, that makes her vulnerable to life-threatening infections, she’s spent most of her life within the hermetically sealed expanses of a glamorous house in a tiny corner of Los Angeles. (The film was shot primarily in Vancouver, with Mexico subbing for Hawaii at a crucial turning point in the drama.)
Besides Maddy and her physician mother, Pauline ( a flinty Anika Noni Rose), Maddy’s spirited nurse, Carla (Ana De La Reguera), and her daughter, Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo), are the only people who ever enter the house. New neighbour Olly (Nick Robinson) arrives just in time for Maddy’s 18th birthday, a poetically longhaired skateboarding prince whose first glance at Maddy, in an upstairs window, Meghie wrings for all its slo- mo adolescent awkwardness and grace.
He’s a transplanted New Yorker who dresses in black and has a compelling way of looking at her, while Maddy is clad mostly in white, like a waiting bride. From mutually enchanted pantomimes across their facing bedroom windows, they advance to late-night text con- vos. Meghie spares us an overload of on-screen text by shifting some of those digital exchanges into a fantasy realm, placing Maddy and Olly face-to-face in life-size versions of the architectural models she builds.
The fantasy sequences – one in a swooping modernist library, the other in a retro diner done up in Maddy’s favourite colour, aquamarine – are production designer Charisse Cardenas’s strongest contributions to the film, candy-hued dreamscapes lending the proceedings a touch of the surreal.
Back amid the showroom decor of Maddy’s home, Carla, who has a far warmer relationship with the girl than does her mother, quickly twigs to what’s going on between Maddy and the boy next door. Carla doesn’t take much convincing to arrange Olly’s visit across the sacrosanct threshold. Soon, Maddy wants more than occasional indoor visits, and is ready to risk her life for the moments of connection.
The screenplay by Goodloe ( The Age of Adaline, The Best of Me) is a mix of ultra-romantic gestures and ultra- obvious cues. Among the latter are exchanges concerning the central characters’ family struggles – Pauline still mourns the husband and son she lost in an accident, while Olly, his sister (Taylor Hickson) and their mother are under the thumb of an abusive father. These plot strands aren’t always well integrated into the action, but a major twist is handled with a straightforward simplicity that amps the horror.
Through it all, from health setbacks to ground-shifting emotional breakthroughs, the emphasis is on youthful beauty and energy.
Meghie embraces the high degree of teen self-awareness, just as she does the young adult clarity of the story’s driving metaphors. In the exuberance and tenderness between Stenberg and Robinson, Everything is a persuasive argument for taking chances. – Hollywood Reporter
Amandla Stenberg plays Maddy in the new young adult romantic drama