The worst crime that "Everything, Everything" commits is that it is not memorable; I almost completely forgot about the film until it was time for me to write this review. That’s not to say that there are not good things about the film, or even that the film isn’t good, because it is. In fact, it is better than most films I have seen in theaters in the last few years.
"Everything, Everything” tells the story of Maddy, an 18-year-old with SCID, which prevents her from leaving her house or interacting with anyone besides her mother, who's also her doctor; Carla, her nurse; and Carla’s daughter, Rosa. When new neighbors move in next door, Maddy strikes up a friendship with Olly, a boy the same age as her.
The film excels when it has to make the text and email conversation bloom visually on screen and whenever a scene focuses on Amandla Stenberg’s portrayal of Maddy. Luckily both take up a large amount of screen time.
The emails and texts transform into elaborate fantasies, with odd details (like Maddy's favorite figurine turning into a real live Astronaut wandering in the background) that make the teenagers' courtship breathtaking to watch. Sternberg, who was Maddy's actual age of 18, a breath of fresh air, had a star-making turn in this film. She allows Maddy to be vulnerable, strong, witty, scared, brilliant, selfish and indecisive, sometimes all at the same time. This role is not in any way easy, and yet there is an effortless quality to the performance that is absolutely captivating.
"Everything, Everything" could be so much more than it actually is; it has so many markers of a progressive film about adolescence, and so many characteristics that are, sadly, missing for most films aimed at teens.
Even small moments in the film that could push the envelope a little farther fail to do so. One such moment is actually something that was cut, and was originally in the book: a discussion of safe sex. A 60-second addition to the movie could be revolutionary for the genre, and yet it was sadly removed. The larger issue, however, is how it treats people with disabilities. "Everything, Everything" does not take into account most people with disabilities experience. I don’t want to have any spoilers in this review, but if you see the film, you will be sure to see that there are more than a few aspects of the film that push the boundaries of insensitivity.
Despite this disappointment, there is hope that this film is indicative of a greater shift in film aimed at teenagers, and film in general. I hope there will be more creative visual storytelling, more interracial romance, and definitely more Sternberg, who is poised to be the next great American actress.