Grade: C+
Entire family: No
2017, 96 min., Color
Romantic drama
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Amazon link

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) was such a huge hit that you knew other sick teen romantic dramas would follow, even if you were unaware of what books were out there to inspire the screenplays. And sure enough, along comes Everything, Everything (2017), starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) and Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer).

If there’s a teen in your family, they’ve no doubt seen trailers or heard of it. But they may not know about the one big difference between the two “sick teen” romantic dramas: The Fault in Our Stars aims high, for an adult audience as well as teens, with believable dialogue and situations and an edginess that comes from a healthy cynicism that comes from a realistic optimism in a hopelessly pessimistic situation. It’s a little like Hemingway for teens, where grace under pressure and how well you face tragedy becomes more important than the outcome. It’s about finding consolation in an impossible situation.

Everything, Everything is the flip side of that—a film that doesn’t just look for a silver lining, but manufactures one. It’s made for the people who wept during The Fault in Our Stars thinking, Why? Why couldn’t there have been just a slightly happier outcome?

Well, it turns out that happiness comes with a price, and with Everything, Everything you get almost everything you wanted in a sick teen romantic drama . . . except for total believability, and some people will be okay with that.

Relatively new director Stella Meghie does a nice job with pacing and scenic construction, but the screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe (The Best of Me) features teens talking in a way that other teens may find it hard to see themselves . . . or their friends. “No one talks that way,” my 15-year-old daughter complained. As skateboarding Olly moves in next door to 18-year-old Maddy—who has a rare and severe combined immunodeficiency disorder that has kept her sealed inside her home her entire life—and as he begins to communicate with her via computer, text message, and even hand-held signs, the dialogue feels just a little too pat, too cheesy, and ultimately too hokey, even for a first-love courtship. Early on she balks at a Rapunzel allusion and says, “I’m not a princess.” “Good,” he banters back. “’Cause I’m not a prince.” My daughter is right. Lines like those seem more contrived than organic.

The same might be said of the plot. It’s absolutely believable that her single mom (Anika Noni Rose), who works as a nurse, would encourage her daughter to join a support group. Maddy also passes the time by reading, surfing the Internet, writing reviews (“Life Is Short—Spoiler Reviews by Madeline”), drawing, and making clay models—though, of course, “every day feels exactly the same.” But if “simple viruses” can kill Maddy and Olly knows it, why would these two teens, who’ve only just met but fallen in love, immediately risk everything by kissing? Because the filmmakers thought teens wanted to see them kiss? Otherwise, it makes no sense. If he really understood her situation and if he really cared for her, he would have played the game within the boundaries of the rules that have kept her alive and well for 18 years.

Our family also found it hard to swallow that Carla (Ana de la Reguera), the nurse hired to watch Maddy while her mother is working, would help Olly through the air-lock front door so the two of them could meet face-to-face. The risk-reward ratio is so wildly askew that it just doesn’t make sense for a professional to behave this way, so it comes across as another plot device.

Similar questions arise. Like, if Maddy’s brother and father were killed when she was too little to remember, unless they had the world’s largest life insurance policies (unlikely, since it was an accident that killed them), it’s hard to believe that the two women could live in a huge and gorgeously custom-designed house with paid staff on a nurse’s salary.

It’s also hard to believe that Maddy would rush outside the house to make sure Olly was okay after he’s knocked to the ground by his father—especially since there was no hint of conflict prior to that. And though a credit card company will issue a card to an 18 year old—banks solicit college students all the time—it’s a little tough to believe that two teens would fly to Hawaii and stay at a luxury resort when neither has any visible source of income. More reckless and even tougher to swallow is Maddy’s leap from a cliff into the ocean when she can’t swim. That raises an important question: what does living really mean? Are you really alive if you are a virtual prisoner or a perpetual child living under the thumb of your parent your entire life? And on the other hand, are you really alive if your idea of “living” is to ignore risk and court death? Is loving living?

Hokey as Everything, Everything seems, at least it has those important underlying questions to provoke viewers.

Language: Nothing much here
Sex: No nudity or lovemaking is shown, but he unzips her dress and they share a bed, with intercourse implied
Violence: Just one brief smackdown that’s witnessed from afar
Adult situations: Nothing really
Takeaway: It’s hard not to wonder what this film might have been like had the dialogue and situations been even a little more realistic, because the basic premise isn’t bad