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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Everything, Everything is a Fault in Our Stars-esque romantic drama based on Nicola Yoon's best-selling YA novel about Maddy Whittier, a teenage girl with a severe auto-immune disorder who falls in love with her new neighbor, Olly Bright. Starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, the adaptation is fairly true to the book, with just a smattering of language ("s--t") and scariness/violence (Maddy gets sick and must be rushed to the hospital, and Olly's father hits him). There's a love scene that also occurs in the book, but it's kept age-appropriate by fading away after a brief scene of undressing and kissing on a bed; only bare shoulders and a glimpse of back are seen. Especially for middle or high schoolers who read the book, this is a poignant, romantic film with strong messages about the power of love and the need to live your life, as well as the importance of courage and communication.
What's the story?
Based on author Nicola Yoon's bestselling YA novel, EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING follows Madeline Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), a soon-to-be 18-year-old who's living with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which forces her to stay in a tightly controlled, germ-free environment. Since Maddy isn't allowed leave home, her only companions are her private nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera); Carla's teen daughter, Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo); and Maddy's strict physician mother, Dr. Whittier (Anika Noni Rose). But everything changes when a new family moves in next door and their teenage son, Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), smiles up at Maddy, who's watching from her window. Olly and Maddy start texting all the time, and he sometimes even jumps up to her window sill to be close to her. One day, Carla notices that Maddy is clearly in love, so she arranges a face-to-face meeting with Olly -- as long as they promise not to touch. But when Maddy takes a risk to see Olly, her mother forbids her to be with him again. Maddy must decide whether to risk everything -- even her health -- to be with Olly and find out what her immune system can handle.
Is it any good?
Charming and well-acted, this sweet, refreshingly diverse love story is a great example of why Hollywood should pay more attention to realistic YA instead of trying to find the next dystopian hit. Robinson and Stenberg are both talented young actors, and it's nice to see an on-screen relationship develop via communication rather than just attraction. Best known as Rue from The Hunger Games, Stenberg is an ideal choice for Maddy: Like the book's main character, she's mixed-race (although in the book, Maddy is half-Asian, not half-white), and she exudes the fragility and curiosity of someone with a bright mind and imagination who must use books, movies, and the internet to expand her limited physical horizons. And although many younger viewers may be drawn to Everything, Everything by the promise of romance, it's a lovely mother-daughter selection as well. The two women in Maddy's life in many ways represent the duality of motherhood -- the desire to open your child up to new experiences (Carla) and the desire to shelter her from harm (Dr. Whittier). Both de la Reguera and Rose portray that tension well. The only quibble, character-wise, is that it would have been nice to see a bit more time devoted to Olly's backstory or personality.
Starring, directed by, and based on an adaptation by women of color, this contemporary YA adaptation is faithful enough to its source material to please the best-seller's fans but easy to follow for newcomers to the story. The film's one small misstep is the sequence in Hawaii (spoiler alert!), which stretches the bounds of believability (can 18-year-olds even rent cars?). But probably only adult viewers will wonder that, since younger audiences will be too busy reveling in the romance of such a grand, dreamy escape from reality. For those who enjoy teen romances with deeper messages about risk, love, and loss, this is an endearing pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Everything, Everything's messages. What is it saying about love? About growing up and living life? About the importance of communication and courage? Why are those valuable character strengths?
This film is unusual because it was directed by, stars, and is based on a book by women of color. Why do you think that's such a rarity in Hollywood?
How does the movie depict sex? Is Maddy and Olly's relationship realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Is this a successful adaptation of the popular novel? What changes did the filmmakers make? Why do you think they made those choices? Which parts of the movie captured the book best, and which parts of did you miss not seeing in the movie?
Do you prefer adaptations based on realistic fiction or based on genre fiction, like dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy stories? Why do you think there are so many YA adaptations out there?
- In theaters: May 19, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: August 15, 2017
- Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
- Director: Stella Meghie
- Studio: MGM
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book characters
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and brief sensuality
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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