The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Everything, Everything

Amandla Stenberg first caught people's attention playing Rue in The Hunger Games. Her sensitive performance allowed her to steal scenes from lead Jennifer Lawrence. She gets her first starring vehicle with Everything, Everything, the screen adaptation of the best-selling novel by Nicola Yoon, which hits DVD and Blu-ray on August 15. The role she has is juicy, and the young actress does a lot with it. Unfortunately, she's let down by an uneven tone and a flawed story.

Stenberg plays Maddy, an 18-year-old girl with a serious immune deficiency. Her doctor mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), has built a sanitary home made mostly of glass so that she can live safely and still see the outside world. Maddy has never left this home. One day, a new family moves in next door. The teenage son, Olly (Nick Robinson), spots Maddy. They begin texting and staring out their respective windows at each other. There's an attraction. Then Maddy's caretaker lets Olly come into the home without Pauline's permission. Sparks fly and the two become determined to find a way to be together without jeopardizing her health.

Everything, Everything operates on a very dramatic premise, which is that Maddy is a prisoner in her own home. Exposure to even common germs could prove fatal. That makes having a romantic relationship almost impossible. Stenberg does excellent work capturing not only the character's frustration over this, but also the way her feelings for Olly make her hungry for an ordinary existence. Resignation about her condition starts to give way to an insatiable yearning for more, once she gets a taste of what she's been missing. All of it feels authentic in the actress's capable hands.

The chemistry between the two leads is pretty good, and the movie's look at some of the extreme measures used to keep Maddy healthy are compelling. (All her clothes have to be irradiated before she can wear them.) There are, however, a couple of things that are significantly off-base, which prevent Everything, Everything from working as well as it could. Director Stella Meghie uses some fantasy conceits in depicting things between Maddy and Olly. In one sequence, Maddy imagines them floating in space. In another, subtitles tell us what the characters are really thinking as they nervously speak to each other. Such devices only serve to pull the viewer out of the story.

A much bigger problem isn't the movie's fault – it's Yoon's. A plot development near the end sucks all the meaning out of Everything, Everything. Right at the point where the story should have a massive emotional payoff, it goes in a silly, unconvincing direction. Suddenly, it's about something much different than we thought, and that feels like a cheat.

In the end, there are some strong elements to Everything, Everything – particularly its young stars -- yet also some significant-enough flaws to prevent it from achieving the real power that it might otherwise have had.

( out of four)

Bonus Features:

Everything, Everything arrives on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on August 15. A digital copy of the movie is included in the pack. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment provided a complimentary copy of the Blu-ray for the purposes of this review.

The first bonus feature is “Trapped in Love: The Story of Everything, Everything,” a five-minute look at the themes explored in the film. The two leads offer up some perspective, as do Yoon and Meghie. It's a fairly standard promotional piece, entertaining nonetheless. Also here are about sixteen minutes of deleted scenes. None of them have a noticeable impact on the plot, although they do provide some additional backstory about Maddy's life and how she exists in a sheltered environment.

The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are good, ensuring that Everything, Everything is pleasurable to look at and listen to.

Everything, Everything is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

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