In the time-honoured tradition of Love Story and The Fault in Our Stars, Everything, Everything is about love and disease. The story is recounted in the voice-over of 18-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg). She was diagnosed in infancy with the “bubble baby” syndrome, a genetic immune-deficiency condition that makes her susceptible to all kinds of fatal infections.
That means she can never leave her beautiful but laboratory-sterile home, where she is zealously monitored by her stern widowed doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose) and loving Hispanic nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera).
Though initially content enough with her books and her internet sick kids group, Maddy complicates things when she falls in love with Olly (Nick Robinson), the dreamy misfit, with the drunk dad, who moves in next door. Maddy decides she is determined to have a real relationship that might could cost her life.
This link between intimacy and death goes back at least to Romeo and Juliet. And Everything, Everything doesn’t hide the Shakespearian influence, particularly in the use of Maddy’s nurse as the young lovers’ go-between. Director Meghie in her first major studio film (her well-reviewed indie, Jean of the Joneses was released last year) has a warm, inventive touch with the material, with a playful use of animation, fantasy and on-screen texting to break the story out of the couple’s unavoidably morbid predicament.
Both stars are dewily-attractive, but also convincingly awkward. The guileless, eager Maddy takes most of the initiative, with the cynical-acting but naive Olly opening up to her love of life.
Not everything here works here -- particularly a late plot twist about Maddy’s fearful mother -- but the idea that love can leap walls or enter germ-free chambers is a timeless theme. And the charismatic Stenberg (she had a small part as Rue in the first Hunger Games movie) is a future star to watch.
Everything, Everything. Directed by Stella Meghie. Written by J. Miles Goodloe, based on the novel by Nicola Yoon. Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson and Anika Noni Rose. At the Carlton Cinema, Cineplex Yonge-Dundas, Cineplex Yonge-Eglinton, Market Square and other cinemas.
Liam Lacey is a former film critic for The Globe and Mail, as well as contributor to various other media outlets over the past 37 years.. He recently returned to Canada from Spain because he forgot about the weather.