Everything, Everything has been a hit since its publishing in 2015. Author Nicola Yoon crafted a love story about how outwardly opposite people fall in love via their shared humanity. Each character has their own story and many of the pitfalls that plague a romance (“why are they even together?”) are deftly dealt with here. The film, like the book, exudes charm and sweetness, but with enough savory that hits the spot like the perfect salted caramel.
Maddie (Amandla Stenberg) has spent her entire 18 years inside the same home. She was diagnosed with SCID as an infant and leads a stagnant, super hypoallergenic life. However, she is not stagnant. She is a voracious reader who blogs reviews, is close with her mother (Anika Noni Rose), has an intense interest in architecture, an analytical mind, and a kind heart.
Her paint-by-the-numbers life is is splashed with new colors when good looking Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door. He spends time outdoors skating to escape his troubled home life. His sister has a secret smoking habit and his father is a physically abusive alcoholic.
Stenberg and Robinson make a wonderful duo. The chemistry leaps off the screen and reminded me of old Hollywood couples that fans followed from film to film. Every phase of their young love is entirely believable, right down the little intimacies that couples create for themselves. Thanks to the director Stella Meghie, the butterflies the were born in me from reading the book are reborn via silver screen.
The film itself is beautiful. Maddie’s home is decorated in sunny and sea pastels with soft, rounded corners. This reflects Maddie’s desire to go outside and swim in the ocean; her greatest dream. When Olly and Maddie do make it to Hawaii, the natural gifts of the state are on full display.
Other beautiful things about this film include representation. The author, director, and main character are Black Women and their influence is felt and seen. When I attended the Everything, Everything brunch there was much discussion on representation behind and in front of the camera. Director Meghie specifically talked about how she had to fight for “Black Girl Moments” where Stenberg did her hair (she styled her hair for the entire film, btw) during a scene and how she had to convince editors not to lighten Stenberg’s already fair skin. It is so rare we get to see a black girl (Maddie is actually interracial with her father being of Japanese descent) be desired, be innocent, and as care-free as Maddie, eventually, gets to be. It delighted me in a way that feels vital.
However, this strength is also Everything, Everything's greatest weakness. The book and the film trade on tropes and stereotypes about how one cannot truly have live a full life while also living with a disability. I can only imagine how devastated I would be if I hoped Maddie would be the representation I was looking for, only to find out it was more of the same hurtful erasure. There is more at work here, but it is impossible to discuss without spoiling the plot. I’ll refer you to these excellent reviews tackle the ableism of book and how it is actively harmful.
In the roundtable interview, Anika Noni Rose, Amandla Stenberg, and Stella Meghie were asked about their Black Feminism/Womanism. While embracing these ideals help us get to moments where diversity and authenticity can be celebrated, we must also be aware of our privileges and their intersections. We must strive to be more inclusive, protect those most marginalized, and unlearn the toxic biases.
There are so many things to adore about Everything, Everything, but there are just as many, if not more issues that cannot be ignored.