By Chaz Lipp
The Lowdown: A teen-lit adaptation that skates by on the charm of its stars, but hobbled by predictable plotting.
Remember the 1975 TV movie The Boy In the Plastic Bubble, starring John Travolta? Based on the real-life story of David Vetter, a boy born with severe combined immunodeficiency (aka SCID), the film has secured a peculiar place in pop culture. The condition is among the most tragically cruel of any experienced by humankind. Vetter, who spent the entirety of his short life in sterile isolation, passed away at age 12 after a bone marrow transplant left him with a fatal infection. Yet the Travolta film itself has been mercilessly parodied (hilariously so, in the case of a particular Seinfeld episode). While few would be so heartless as to mock actual sufferers of the condition, the phrase “bubble boy” has long been viewed by many as fair game for ridicule.
More than 40 years after that Emmy-winning production, Everything, Everything arrives with a gender twist and a plot twist that most seasoned moviegoers will deduce long before the big reveal. The girl in the plastic bubble, as it were, is Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg). She’s turning 18 and has never experience life outside of her hermetically-sealed studio apartment due to living with SCID. Her mother (conveniently a doctor) has built the dwelling as an extension of her home, complete with an air lock. Maddy is regularly visited by a nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), who she has known as far back as she can recall. For reasons that remain unclear, Carla’s teen daughter Rosa is the only other person allowed to enter her habitat.
Just as Travolta once upon a time fell in love with the neighbor girl, Maddy develops a relationship with Olly (Nick Robinson), whose family recently moved in next door. Maddy and Olly text incessantly while staring at each other through their bedroom windows. Director Stella Meghie stages some of these tech-based convos as in-person, quasi-fantasy sequences, always with a silent, suited-up astronaut lurking nearby. That’s Maddy’s symbol for her loneliness and dependency. However, unlike the Travolta flick, Maddy doesn’t venture outside in a pressurized suit. No spoilers, but let’s just say she’s not going to let anything come between her and the puppy love of her life.
Everything, Everything (based on a teen lit novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon) will likely strike a chord or two with its target demographic. Much of the plot, including the aforementioned big reveal, will likely leave older viewers rolling their eyes. The agreeably sincere performances by Stenberg and Robinson are what keep the whole thing afloat. It’s all just so mild. The screenplay doesn’t allow for these kids to have any unlikable traits (though Maddy’s habit of writing “spoiler reviews” comes pretty close). And by the time we’re told what is really going on, it only opens up a raft of questions the film failed to answer.
Everything, Everything opens wide on May 19. Those too young for the new Alien and too old for the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid will probably enjoy it.
Everything, Everything images: Warner Bros. Pictures