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More like nothing, nothing - ‘Everything, Everything’

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Film adaptation of popular YA novel is formulaic, flat and derivative

Cinematic adaptations of young adult novels have been quite a cottage industry over the course of the past decade or so. Unfortunately, instead of pulling from the wide array of interesting and varied YA works, it seems that most studios are only interested in making movies that fall into one of two categories.

  1.     Dystopias where young people must rebel against an oppressive system and save the world.
  2.     Deeply sentimentalized love stories where at least one of the parties is horribly, terminally ill.

“Everything, Everything,” the new film based on the Nicola Yoon novel of the same name, falls firmly into the latter category. And other than a clumsy twist – one frequently telegraphed and poorly executed at that – it is almost interchangeable with others of its saccharine, melodramatic ilk.

Maddy Whittier (Amandla Steinberg, “As You Are”) is a teenager living in southern California. Due to a rare immunodeficiency condition, she is vulnerable to all manner of viruses, pathogens and what have you. She basically has one of those “bubble boy” afflictions, only her entire house has been somehow sealed and rendered impermeable. There’s an airlock to get in and out, everything has to be irradiated and decontaminated before it comes in – you get the idea.

Maddy lives alone with her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose, TV’s “The Quad”), a doctor who has been Maddy’s primary physician since the death of Maddy’s dad and brother when she was just a baby. The only other people she has any contact with are her longtime nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera, “Macho”) and Carla’s teen daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo, TV’s “The Bold and the Beautiful”). Otherwise, it’s just Maddy and the internet.

That all changes when a new family moves in next door. Olly Bright (Nick Robinson, “The 5th Wave”) is the family’s teenage son; when he spots Maddy through a window, an odd, removed flirtation begins. Through texts and direct messages and phone calls, the two begin to fall for one another despite the weirdness of their circumstances.

This budding relationship leads Maddy to challenge some of the constraints of her situation; before she knows it, she’s ready to risk it all – even her life – for a chance at even a brief period of happiness. But there are things she doesn’t know – about her family, about Olly – that might impact her willingness to push onward.

“Everything, Everything” is the sort of maudlin melodrama that one hopes won’t resonate with a teenaged audience, but the reality is that these movies get made for a reason. There’s a paint-by-numbers feel to the entire thing, that “I’ve seen this before” vibe that permeates many YA adaptations. The shy beginnings, the over-the-top feelings, the grand romantic gestures, the fraught pushing away – this one hits all the marks.

The one factor that differentiates this one from the rest is a ham-fisted plot twist that feels like something mid-period M. Night Shyamalan would do if he had suffered a head injury. You’ll see it coming a mile away and still feel kind of insulted when it eventually arrives. No spoilers beyond that, but you’ve been warned (also, please note that I wouldn’t have brought it up at all if either the movie or the twist itself was actually any good).

Steinberg’s actually not bad. She’s asked to carry much of the movie without a ton of help and more or less handles her business. She’s no superstar, but she definitely looks to be capable of more – certainly if given better material than this dreck. Robinson is a teen boy cipher – business as usual for this type of movie. He’s earnest and good-looking in a non-threatening way; he’s like an anthropomorphized golden retriever puppy, all wide eyes and floppy hair.

As for the rest of the cast, well … they could not matter less. There are other people in this movie, but they barely register. Rose and de la Reguera are fine, but the narrative renders them as non-entities; they exist solely because they have to in order for the hole-riddled story to function. Basically, this movie features two characters and a whole mess of plot devices.

“Everything, Everything” is built on a foundation of narrative credulity and unearned emotional manipulation. The film is content to connect the dots to form a familiar picture of tragic teenage love that we’ve seen a hundred times before; dull and derivative, it brings nothing new to the table.

“Everything, Everything” is worth nothing, nothing.

[1 out of 5] 

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