“Everything, Everything” Is A Beautiful New Kind Of Teen Romantic Drama: BUST Review

by Erika W. Smith

Out last Friday, the new teen romantic drama Everything, Everything is different from the usual John Green adaptations you usually see onscreen. And that’s for two reasons.

The first is the fact that the film takes place largely in its main character’s imagination, and director Stella Meghie turns these daydreams into scenes that are visually stunning, charmingly funny, and occasionally heartbreaking – and star Amandla Stenberg carries these scenes beautifully.

The second is the fact that this teen romantic drama, based on the bestselling YA novel by Nicola Yoon, stars a young black person, is directed by a black woman, is based on a book by a black woman, has a diverse cast, and has an interracial love story at its center. In a perfect world, this would be unremarkable; but as it is, it’s revolutionary. (Note: Stenberg is non-binary and has asked that people use she/her pronouns when writing about her.)

But even if Everything, Everything was not a rarity in this, the film would still be well worth seeing.

The film takes place in the present or near future. Our main character, 18-year-old Maddy, has an immunodeficiency disorder called SCID that means that she is allergic to “everything” – to the point that she hasn’t left the house since she was a baby. Although she takes classes and is in a support group online, the only people she spends time with in person are her mother, who is also her doctor, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose); her nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and Carla’s daughter, who is around Maddy’s age, Rosa (Danube Hermosillo). Maddy dreams of seeing the ocean, but for the most part is content with her life – that is, until her new neighbors move in.

Maddy and her new neighbor, the brooding and handsome Olly (Nick Robinson), immediately catch each other’s attention. Like a Taylor Swift music video, they get to know each other by waving and by trading handwritten messages on paper held up to their bedroom windows, which face each other – as well as by texting and phone calls. Meghie does something ingenious with these texts; we go back and forth from seeing Maddy and Olly with their phones to seeing them communicating in Maddy’s imagination. Maddy mentally inserts herself and Olly into the models she’s made for her online architecture class; while they’re texting, we see them flirting in a booth in a model diner, or fighting in a model library.

Maddy and Olly, of course, fall in love. And as she falls in love, Maddy becomes increasingly unhappy with her life cooped up inside; she plots ways to see Olly in person, and eventually, to leave her house and see the ocean. As Maddy’s relationship with Olly develops and as she ventures into the world outside, she also learns more about why she’s been trapped inside her whole life. 

I saw Everything, Everything in a theater with a few rows of critics, and a dozen rows of the film’s target audience – teenage girls, many of them with their moms. And while I definitely thoroughly enjoyed the film and would recommend it, these girls L O V E D this movie. They cheered at Maddy’s best lines, and “ooohed” at the kissing scenes, and I bet that many of them will be back to see it again.

If you love romantic dramas, or YA novels, or Amandla Stenberg, or visually creative films, then see this movie. And consider seeing it, too, if you aren’t a huge fan of any of these things, but want to see more movies of all kinds made by and starring women of color.

Or listen to star Amandla Stenberg, who on Instagram wrote:

Go see it for the magical realism

Go see it for the dreamy pastel colors and outfits

Go see it for the lyrical cinematography

Go see it for natural hair and black beauty

Go see it for elevated smarter teen romance

Go see it for the plot twist 😉

Go see it for nuanced black mother daughter relationships

Go see it for the sick soundtrack including @theinternet @macdemarco @alabama_shakes @kehlani and me! 

Go see it because it was created by black women. @stellameghie @nicolayoon

Go see it for the normalization of blackness.

Go see it because we demand to be represented.

Go see it because we #INFILTRATE

Go see it to have fun!

These are the reasons why Everything Everything is so important to me. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Top photo: still from Everything, Everything

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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