After shelling out the $14.50 to see Everything, Everything at a nearby cinema, my expectations were kept pretty low. I thought to myself, at worst, I was in for an hour and a half of cringe-worthy dialog. At best, I would wind up watching a heartwarming love story. What I got instead was an exercise in deep healing, and a narrative that featured a couple of pretty kick ass characters.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, Maddy is an eighteen year old who was diagnosed with “SCID” (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency) which is a disease caused by a genetic mutation, that leaves the individual with a severely compromised immune system. (Fun fact: SCID is also known as the “Bubble Boy” Disease, made famous by SCID sufferer, David Vetter.)
While most people with SCID don’t make it past childhood, Maddy seems to thrive in her sterilized home, which she has not left since she was an infant. Her mother and nurse tend to her several times a day and she occasionally meets up with her nurse’s daughter, who is the same age. There are some plot holes here, like: how is Maddy’s body unaffected by these people’s potential germs and viruses? If she can be near her nurse’s daughter, why can’t she be near her next-door neighbor? But maybe those plot gaps are there on purpose.
The Pure, Untouched
Maddy passes her time by constructing models for her online architecture class, plus she reads a ton and even writes book reviews. She is a “class-A” nerd who could have easily fallen into the “pure, untouched virgin” trope (the girl has literally never left her house).
But while, at certain points, her character broaches the innocent, naïve stereotype, she is also a take-charge kind of young woman. Yes, she crushes hard on the boy next door and does not know what to do with herself when she meets him, but she is also the one calling the shots. While at first it seems like Olly (her love interest) is being incredibly forward, Maddy soon turns the tables by writing to him online, opening up to him, and ultimately planning their (or really, her) escape.
A Breath Of Fresh Air
Maddy’s character is truly a refreshing take on the used-up coming-of-age arch; although it may seem like she would give up anything to be with Olly (“love makes you do crazy things”), it is also clear that she needs to find out for herself what it means to be alive. Maddy defies her mother like any eighteen year old would, stealing time in the dangerous outdoors and chatting with Olly into the wee hours of the morning.
Her overactive imagination that really keeps the plot going; I love the scenes where projections of Olly and Maddy converse inside of the model structures built by Maddy.
A young woman with many talents, Maddy is portrayed as a creative, intelligent individual who forges her own reality. Of course, it helps that the film was written and directed by women (J. Mills Goodloe and Stella Meghie, respectively) and based on a book by Nicola Yoon, the #1 New York Times best-selling author. (Screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe is also the creative force behind The Age Of Adaline, The Best Of Me, and Pride.)
As someone who is no stranger to chronic illness, and who has danced between the lines of the so-called “real” and the “psychosomatic,” I probably should have expected to be triggered. But sometimes, momentarily returning to the past can bring about momentous healing. Without giving away too many spoilers, it is safe to say that the power of suggestion is a theme of this film, and is something that rings true to our everyday lives.
Everything, Everything brought about a slew of coveted embodied emotions as I watched. Looking on while Maddy and Olly fell in love, I began to re-experience my first love, and to feel the sense of freedom that comes with teenage-hood and the search for identity. I embodied her entrapment, her hurt, and her mind-warp.
In some ways, Everything, Everything was a great escape. But I have to say, I felt simultaneously engaged in and disconnected from the present as I watched.
Everything, Everything easily made it on my list of films for personal healing. I was so glad to be proven wrong regarding my expectations (I actually turned to my friend before the movie started and said, “this is going to be a bad movie”). In short, if you are looking for a film to jumpstart your feeling body and throw you back into what it was like to be 18, then give Everything, Everything a go. You may just come out of it a wiser adult.
Everything, Everything saw release in the US on 19 May, and will be released in the UK on 18 August. Find international release dates here.