What if The Boy in the Plastic Bubble had access to the internet? Teen romance Everything, Everything provides answers to that and a slew of oather far less interesting questions through a racially diverse, tech-savvy update to the 1976 made-for-TV classic (this time, based on a bestselling YA novel by Nicola Yoon).
Amandla Stenberg—who stole the spotlight as Rue in The Hunger Games—stars as a girl who’s allergic to everything, maintaining her health by never leaving her compulsively clean and hermetically sealed home. Her mom is a very responsible doctor, and her brother and father died in a car accident when she was a baby. She regularly interacts with a total of three people and maybe has a couple friends online, but her escape fantasy isn’t attending a high school party or exploring a city, it’s floating alone in the ocean (despite the fact that she can’t swim). She glides through her sterile environment wearing shades of white and pale blue. She is romantic, poetic, and far deeper than girls who have left their houses.
But Everything, Everything and The Boy in the Plastic Bubble share a truly interesting premise: How much do you compromise your health for your happiness? In order to experience the world, what are you willing to lose in terms of longevity? Unfortunately, they also share cop-out endings. SPOILER ALERT: Both solve the dilemma by declaring the illness irrelevant/nonexistent. Everything, Everything does it in a more dramatic, twist-ending type reveal, but they’re equally lazy. Admittedly, hoping for a real conversation about disability and risk management from a wide-release teen drama was delusional.
Even with its laundry list of problems, Everything, Everything looks like it could be a hit with the children. It’s got teenagers modeling impulsive and ill-advised decision making (perfect validation!), a Romeo and Juliet–style romance that eclipses life and logic, a romance between a black girl and a white guy that doesn’t include racial commentary or “culture clash” themes, and, most importantly, a technological emphasis that glorifies digital interaction.
The phone calls and text-message conversations between the leads are dramatized and transformed into what looks like a series of actual dates; we see them discussing and flirting and opening up in the library or at a bar in a diner. The only hint that these scenes aren’t “real” is the soft ping at the end of every sentence. Teenage love stories are a dime a dozen, but the romance of technology will last.