Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson in Everything, Everything (Photo: Warner)
**1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Stella Meghie
STARS Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson
A YA adaptation brandishing a WTF plot twist, Everything, Everything arrives in theaters as a seasonal antidote to all the superhero and sci-fi sagas clamoring for attention. Of course, counterprogramming is nothing new, and it worked like gangbusters three summers ago with the lovely box office hit The Fault In Our Stars. This new picture, based on Nicola Yoon’s novel, isn’t nearly as successful in its construction of the central characters or its handing of the dilemmas they face, but it’s an agreeable movie with a startling final act that might catch young audiences off-guard as forcefully as, say, The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense walloped older audiences with their left-field reveals.
Amandla Stenberg, The Hunger Games’ little Rue all grown up, essays the lead role in what’s initially a modern-day variation on the 1976 John Travolta TV-movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. She plays Maddy Whittier, an 18-year-old who has spent practically her entire life never venturing outside her Los Angeles home. That’s because she has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which basically prevents her body from fighting any and all infections. Since even stepping outside might prove to be fatal, she can’t ever leave the premises, with her physician mom (Anika Noni Rose) and a sympathetic nurse (Ana de la Reguera) keeping a watchful eye on her. It isn’t until a cute boy named Olly Bright (Nick Robinson) moves into the house next door and befriends her via text-messaging that Maddy finds herself willing to put her life at risk.
Even within the confines of the narrative, the behavior of certain characters doesn’t always make sense, but there’s nothing forced about the burgeoning relationship between Maddy and Olly. Theirs is a sweet romance, and it’s a shame the filmmakers don’t trust it to stand on its own – instead, the picture is weakened by strains of whimsical fancy (many involving an astronaut) that probably worked better on paper than in practice. As for the third-act revelation, it provides some oomph to a storyline that had started getting fragmented by this point. It spins the tale in a new direction, and while some viewers might resent the darker implications it brings to the table, it certainly guarantees that the movie won’t be dismissed as merely another standard teen sudser.