[Screen It]


(2017) (Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson) (PG-13)

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Drama: A teenager who's confined to her home due to an immune deficiency ends up falling for the boy who moves in next door.
Maddy Whittier (AMANDLA STENBERG) is an 18-year-old girl suffering from SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency). As a result, she hasn't left her house in the past seventeen years where she lives with her mom, Pauline (ANIKA NONI ROSE), a physician. Her only other direct human contact comes from her personal nurse, Carla (ANA DE LA REGUERA), and that woman's daughter, all of which has left the teenager longing to meet other people in person and see the world. All of which she knows will never happen, what with the likelihood of becoming ill or maybe even dying should she contract something.

Things change, however, when teenager Olly Bright (NICK ROBINSON) moves in next door with his parents and sister. With their bedroom windows facing each other, the two teens become friends via text messages, and that then blossoms into something more. Sensing this and not telling Pauline, Carla allows Olly to enter the house and interact with Maddy, albeit at a distance. That only further intensifies their teen romance bond, as well as Maddy's wanderlust to see the rest of the world.

As she strives to make that a reality, she must contend with her mother's objections, as well as the possibility that doing so could endanger her life.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
I've known people with various conditions and illnesses -- some common and some rare -- but I've never known anyone who permanently can't have contact with the outside world or physical interaction with others due to compromised immune systems. I can't attest for novels or plays about such matters, but that rarity might explain why few movies have tackled this issue. The most famous, of course, was the TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" that featured John Travolta two years into "Welcome Back, Kotter" and a year before he hit film stardom with "Saturday Night Fever."

Since then, the only other projects I can recall are an episode from "Seinfeld" where George Costanza plays Trivial Pursuit against "the bubble boy" (that turned comically violent over a misprinted answer of "The Moops" rather than "The Moors") and the 2001 Jake Gyllenhaal comedy "Bubble Boy." Now, sixteen years later and after plenty of other movies about plenty of other illnesses, we have "Everything, Everything," a teen romantic drama based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon.

It revolves around an 18-year-old girl (Amandla Stenberg) who's been housebound for the past seventeen years due to suffering from SCID or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Yet, rather than living in a bubble like her fictional predecessors, she has free run of her entire house, but can't leave through the hermetically controlled front door.

Her only in-person human contact comes from her long-widowed mother (Anika Noni Rose), personal nurse (Ana de la Reguera) and that woman's teenage daughter (although it's never explained how those three can enter the house -- carrying all of those potential outside germs -- or interact with her without wearing a mask and such to avoid infections, colds, the flu and so on).

I haven't read the source novel so I can't attest about whether it's addressed in that, but screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe and director Stella Meghie gloss over that issue, perhaps sensing it would make things too clinical or perhaps take up too much time (despite sci-fi movies doing it all of the time with little to no fuss, distraction or hiccup in their stories' forward momentum).

I'm guessing they wanted to focus on the budding teen romance between her and her new next-door neighbor (Nick Robinson) and its central complicating factor of the two would-be lovers facing the prospect of not being able to be in the same room without one of them donning a protective suit. Even so, the fact that the mom, nurse, and that woman's daughter can come and go would certainly seem to make the "no visitors" rule a moot point.

In any event, Meghie creates some early imagined scenes depicting the central characters' text exchanges as actual interactions between the two in a variety of settings (no, they don't actually talk on the telephone because, you know, that would be so 20th century), sometimes accompanied by a character in what pretty much looks like an old NASA spacesuit. I would have liked to have seen more of these done in even more of an imaginative way, but I guess that wouldn't really appease the target audience.

So, and likely to no one's surprise (but likely the swooning of younger teenage viewers who might be taking in all of this hook, line and sinker), the friendship blossoms into a romance, with the nurse deciding to break protocol and allow the teen boy and teen girl to be in the same room together. I guess that's supposed to introduce some danger to the proceedings, but as already mentioned, that "will she or won't she get sick" storytelling ship has already sailed. That said, it does lead to the obligatory bit of them traveling together, followed by the obligatory sex scene.

That's all handled in a very PG-13 way, but while I believed in that happening, I didn't buy into the way Stenberg portrays a girl who's seeing the world for the first time. In most other regards the performance is fine (and that goes for Robinson as well), but I never once believed this was a teen who's never been outside of her house and thus is seeing everything for the first time.

Yes, she's likely viewed such footage on TV or online (shockingly, the filmmakers don't include the use of VR goggles to represent her virtual experience with the outside world). But seeing pictures of the ocean vs. the real thing and then actually getting into the water would be an amazing, first-time experience, none of which is conveyed on Maddy's face or by the filmmakers in any other fashion.

In the end, this is an okay teen romance flick, but various little issues -- that could have been fixed quite easily -- continue to bedevil it and serve to distract. That is, at least they do so for this middle-aged reviewer who saw young Travolta do the bubble boy thing long ago and wondered what it would be like to live such a sheltered life. Here, it doesn't feel like much more than a gimmick and an unnecessary and not always believable one at that. "Everything, Everything" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 15, 2017 / Posted May 19, 2017

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