If you don’t know anything, anything about “Everything, Everything,” it’s based on a novel for young adults by Nicola Yoon. As a female-written YA novel, it must involve either a post-apocalyptic dystopia (preferably part of a trilogy) or a doomed romance between two teenagers (one of whom, ideally, will have a fatal disease). “Everything, Everything” takes the latter route, and director Stella Meghie’s film version is a nice enough romantic drama until it gets jacked up by a cheap, cop-out ending that is totally the book’s fault.
Amandla Stenberg, who played young Rue in the “Hunger Games” movies, stars as Maddy, an 18-year-old girl who has lived in a virtual bubble her entire life due to having SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) — basically, she’s allergic to everything, everything. She lives in a sterile, high-tech house with her mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), who is overprotective even under the circumstances. Maddy is active online but has no in-real-life friends other than her nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and Carla’s teenage daughter, Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo).
Crucially, Maddy is not depressed by this. She’s a smiling girl who reads a lot, takes online courses, and exercises regularly. Stenberg’s open, trusting face conveys innocence and sincerity.
And, soon enough, thirst. A new family moves in next door that includes a floppy-haired teenage son, Olly (Nick Robinson), who tickles Maddy’s previously untickled fancy. Their bedroom windows face each other, so they communicate at first by miming and mugging, then by text message. Maddy imagines their correspondence as in-person conversations in a diner, which keeps the chats from being visually boring. Nurse Carla concedes in letting Olly visit the house briefly (there’s a de-contamination system in the doorway), but only when Pauline is at work.
The conflict in the story — Maddy and Olly want to be together, but Maddy’s condition makes physical contact potentially deadly — is the emotionally brutal sort often found in teen-oriented melodramas. Meghie and the cast carry it out tenderly, chastely, with unabashed romance and a simple, pretty musical score (by Ludwig Goransson) that is sure to stir adolescent hearts. But Stenberg and Robinson, though charming separately, don’t have much chemistry together, and Maddy and Olly’s love is built on shaky foundations. (Her disease is pretty much the only thing they ever talk about.) Then again, perhaps such details are irrelevant when it comes to young love.
Then there’s the ending, which is a disappointing cheat. I won’t spoil it for you, but it resolves the conflict in the easiest way possible, undermining the film’s emotional complexity. It doesn’t completely ruin the movie (which, mind you, would be only barely recommendable anyway), but it does damage its credibility and threaten to overshadow everything, everything else.
C+ (1 hr., 36 min.; )