You can lock the world, with its bacteria, viruses and pathogens out, but you can’t lock raging teen hormones in. That’s the big message of “Everything, Everything,” a terminal teen romance of the “Fault in Our Stars/Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” persuasion.
Amandla Stenberg didn’t survive long as “Rue” in “The Hunger Games.” But how long can Maddy, her immune-system deprived teen, live without first love? Especially when first love is hunky Nick Robinson of “The Kings of Summer?”
Nicola Yoon’s YA novel becomes a charmingly gooey but somewhat gutless adolescent romance all highlighted and underlined with “forbidden love” semiotics. She’s a pretty black girl, always dressed in white. He’s a white SK8Rboi always dressed in black.
She has SCID — severe combined immunodeficiency. He’s living in an about-to-be-broken family next door. There are glass walls between them. Literally. Maddy hasn’t been outside in 17 years.
“I feel like an astronaut, stranded in space.”
But then Olly’s family moves into the mansion next door. They “meet cute,” through hand-written messages held up to glass — posters with digits on them.
Novice features director Stella Meghie handles the chaste courtship with warmth and wit.
“Are you dying?”
“Not right now.”
Mere text messages — no, not sexting — are all it takes to set Maddy’s teen imagination off. She’s lived her whole life vicariously, schooled online, studying architecture, designing diners, etc. where she inserts a symbolic astronaut into each model.
And she dreams of the sea. Three miles away from her hermetically-sealed prison, and she’s never been to the beach, never learned to swim. She’s “Princess Madeleine in her Glass Castle,” Olly (Oliver) jokes, a play on her situation and Maddy’s love of “The Little Prince.”
Her online review of that novel? “Love is everything. Everything.”
There’s a nurse (Ana de la Reguera) willing to facilitate things — as far as that goes. Maddy’s doctor mom (Anika Noni Rose) doesn’t seem like an ogre, though she doesn’t explain her standoffishness to the new neighbors.
The rules of such romances are generally pretty arbitrary, and “Everything, Everything” makes these up as they go along. She can’t see anybody new. Until she does. She can’t go outside. But she will. And so on.
That disembowels the story’s pathos, and the further we get into this brisk but unhurried love story, the more featherweight it seems.
But the leads, perfectly cast and coiffed, have lovely teen magazine chemistry even if the characters seem to have nothing in common. Did that ever stop young love?
And girls have to learn the nature of boys somewhere — “He’s not for you.” And he’ll move on. FAST.
It’s not for you, the movie I mean. Not if you’re oh, over 21. But 15 year -girls traditionally eat this stuff up. And they could do worse.
So it doesn’t add up to “Everything, Everything.” What terminal teen romance does?
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Credits:Directed by Stella Meghie, script by J. Mills Goodloe, based on the novel by Nicola Yoon. A Warner Brothers/MGM release.
Running time: 1:36