“Everything, Everything”


            It's a really sweet, cute, simple teenage love story.  Some of the surrounding details are stretched to the point of incredulity in trying to focus so much on the sweet, cute, simple teenage love story.  But you have to give them credit for staying focused, and with a sense of humor, even.

            Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) is 18 years old and has never been outside her house.  She has some severe auto-immune disease, and her mother is a doctor who has the means and the obsession to keep Maddy in complete isolation.  The only people she knows, other than her Mom, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), are her nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and occasionally, Carla's daughter, who's going off to college.  That's a pretty small circle of personal contacts.  Maddy has been educated entirely at home, and she really knows how to use the computer.  And she's good at architectural models.  But she longs to breathe the air outside, hear the birds, feel the sunshine, and....jump in the water.  Even though she can't swim.  She's missed out on so much of life, but seems resigned to her fate.  Until there's a new boy next door.

            Olly (Nick Robinson) first comes into contact with Maddy's household by bringing over a bunt cake from his mother.  Pauline lies and tells him Maddy's not home.  But Olly knows better, because he's just seen her through their conveniently-adjoining bedroom windows.

            No, nothing prurient here.  Nobody flashes anybody.  This is just all innocence and naivetee.  He manages to start a texting conversation by writing his phone number on his window pane.  And so Maddy finds herself---for the first time in her life---texting a boy.  And she's enjoying this.  So much so that she imagines them actually talking in person (and the movie helps us out by showing the viewers her imaginings, rather than having us sit there reading their texts).

            While Maddy's never really done anything before, Olly is not exactly a man of the world, either.  He's moved around a little bit, we later learn, because his father's had a hard time hanging on to a job.  We see the Dad out on the driveway a couple of times, and the impression isn't good.  So in his own way, Olly is just as needy for something pure, sweet, innocent, and charming.  Which is exactly what Maddy provides for him.

            Against Mom's wishes, Carla arranges for Olly to actually come over and speak to Maddy. And after several awkward exchanges, we feel their romance bloom, but of course Pauline is having none of this, and has expressly forbidden it. 

            Will Maddy find a way to live life despite the cocoon?  Will they ever find a “cure” for her disease?  Will Olly and Maddy experience the kind of true love that includes a spat or two?

            OK, so it doesn't have a lot of depth.  Nor does it have a lot of explanation for the practical objections, like where the money's coming from, or why some outside people aren't a medical threat but others would be.  But ignore all that, and “Everything, Everything:” is a sweet, cute, simple, teenage love story.  You could do a lot worse.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  What do you remember about your first crush as a teenager?

2)                  What would you miss the most if you couldn't leave your house?

3)                  What's the unlikeliest romance you've witnessed?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association