"Everything, Everything" tells a simple story: boy meets girl, and they fall in love. They endure the trying tasks of finding themselves and learning to live their best lives― all themes frequently explored in any art form. The trailer and other promotional material, otherwise damning for how ordinary it makes the plot line seem, ultimately compelled me for one reason: boy meets girl who isn’t white.
I read the book prior to seeing the film, and true enough, the female lead, Madeline, is meant to be half Japanese-American and half African-American. This specificity is true to author Nicola Yoon’s life, and is essential to her storytelling. She is Jamaican-American, and her husband is Korean-American; the protagonist is meant to be a medium through which Yoon’s daughter can see herself represented. Amandla Stenberg plays Madeline, and though she may not fit this ethnic description exactly, seeing a mixed-race actress in an ultimately mixed-race romance, however, is wholly new.
Amandla isn’t the only contributor to the film’s more inclusive cast; acclaimed actress Anika Noni Rose, known for "The Princess and the Frog," "Dreamgirls," and other works, stars as the protagonist’s mother, Pauline. Refraining from spoiling the plot twist, it is an understatement to say that Pauline’s character is complex. Storyline removed, she is a black, female doctor, and seeing this archetype on screen is certainly laudable.
Often, it is only when people of color are behind the production of visual media that people of color become visible in media. Stenberg is largely vocal about the infrequent representation of diversity on screen. Her promotions of the film on Instagram are numerous, often captioned with the likes of “...go see ur carefree black girl infiltrate mainstream media.” When only a third of speaking parts in films overall are female, and a mere 28.3 percent of characters are from non-white ethnic/racial groups, the idea of infiltrating mainstream media is both realistic and necessary. The idea of representation is painfully new, and Nicola Yoon makes notable strides in slowly expanding our visual of love.
This movie is not to be written off as only telling a recycled, angsty romance. However much it buys into the trope of mildly unrealistic, youthful love, it is undoubtedly refreshing to see that love extended to women of color. For those who rarely see their skin tone, hair type, or relationships normalized on screen, this film brings us one step closer.