If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Riverdale, you know that I’m basically still a teenage girl. Everything, Everything is the movie I wish I had when I was actually going through those awkward, hormonal and formative years. It’s a clever teen romance that captures those years with so much authenticity and originality, I had a silly grin on my face for the whole movie – well, when I wasn’t tearing up.
Amandla Stenberg plays Maddie, an 18-year-old who has never left her house due to a medical condition called Severe Combined Immune Deficiency aka SCID. When the film starts, Maddie only has her overprotective mother, played by Anika Noni Rose, her caregiver Carla (Ana De La Reguera) and her books to keep her company. Maddie’s race has nothing to do with this plot. Maddie is smart, introverted, delicate and desired – things black girls aren’t usually allowed to be on screen. Everything, Everything, based on the massively successful YA novel written by Nicola Yoon, is a story about falling in love, grief, family and forgiveness. Those themes are universal and yet we rarely get to see actresses who look like Amandla play the girl who falls in love. The only two other characters I’ve mentioned are also women of colour. One day, hopefully, we will get to a point where I don’t have to mention when a film is led by people of colour. Since we aren’t there yet, it is imperative to note that one of the reasons this movie is so special is because Maddie, the character, was written by a black woman and another black woman, Stella Meghie, directed this film.
When I wrote about the movie’s first trailer in February, I noted that the film’s premise may not have been the most groundbreaking or that it might seem puerile to pin hopes of social importance on a sappy teen drama but that this story, with this specific cast, is important. To see a black girl be romantically pursued and loved is radical and a reinvention of a genre we know so well. Think about what seeing Amandla Stenberg, nailing this part and rocking her natural hair, means to the insecure black girls growing up around girls who look like the Pretty Little Liars cast. It would have meant the world to me.
Now, onto a serious and crucial topic: how goddamn dreamy Nick Robinson is. Listen, I was ready to fall in love with Olly right alongside Maddie. I was prepared to swoon. Teen romances are my whole sh-t. I live for this stuff. A black girl as the beguiling girl next door meets an emo, skateboarding, HOT outsider who falls for her instantly and they pretty much spend the rest of the movie engaged in awkward flirting? SIGN ME UP. I know that it might seem impossible for me to be objective about Everything, Everything since it seems tailor-made for me (and, you know, teen girls everywhere) so I won’t pretend to be impartial. I loved everything about Amandla and Nick’s chemistry. Together, they nailed the apprehension and adoration that happens when teenagers fall for each other through bedroom windows and instant messaging. When they finally meet? It’s magic. OK, that was incredibly cheesy and I apologize but I can’t f-cking help it. The way Nick Robinson looks at Amandla Stenberg is the way every girl dreams of being looked at. The kid is a star.
Everything, Everything opens today but I was fortunate enough to go see a screening of the film a couple weeks ago and right after the credits rolled, I jotted down some notes. The three words I wrote down after the screening were whimsical, magical and joyful. Yesterday, Amandla Stenberg posted this on Instagram:
Everything Everything starts playing in theaters tomorrow. Go see it for black girl whimsy and joy 🌀 Go see it for the magical realism 🔮 Go see it for the dreamy pastel colors and outfits 👟👟🎒 Go see it for the lyrical cinematography 🎥 Go see it for natural hair and black beauty 👑 Go see it for elevated smarter teen romance 💏 Go see it for the plot twist ;) Go see it for nuanced black mother daughter relationships👩👧 Go see it for the sick soundtrack including @theinternet ❤️ @macdemarco ❤️ @alabama_shakes ❤️ @kehlani ❤️ and me! Go see it because it was created by black women. @stellameghie 🌹@nicolayoon Go see it for the normalization of blackness. Go see it because we demand to be represented. Go see it because we #INFILTRATE Go see it to have fun! These are the reasons why Everything Everything is so important to me. I hope you love it as much as I do.
She did my job for me. What else can I say? You should go see Everything, Everything for all the reasons Amandla lists but if you need a little more convincing, what Amandla does so well in this post is articulate the charm of Stella Meghie’s directing. If you have a second, this profile on Meghie in the LA Times about she’s “scamming” her way through Hollywood is worth a read.
The way Meghie lets this story play out on screen is so jubilant and bright—
I’m talking literal bright colours—it’s like she’s slapping you in the face with Maddie’s quirky personality, in the best way. Instead of the classic on-screen text bubbles to depict online conversations, Meghie creates the world in Maddie’s head where she and Olly are conversing in person, instead of through their phones. It unfolds brilliantly. We feel Maddie’s confinement but it never feels depressing – until the story breaks your heart all on its own. While at the same time heartbreaking (as a verb) for the teenager who’s never been to prom or sat in the cafeteria with her friends, there’s also a complete understanding of how Maddie coped for so long and still turned out so delightful. To callback Amandla Stenberg’s post, the cinematography IS lyrical. There are so many dreamy pastel colours and great outfits. The plot twist is great (even if you see it coming). Also the mother/daughter relationship is nuanced and expertly played by Stenberg and Noni-Rose.
Everything, Everything is everything I wanted it to be. Black women DID THAT. Please, go see it. I’m going again this weekend. The teenager in me wants to see it about five more times.
Attached - Amandla and Nick at the 2017 MTV Movie And TV Awards earlier this month.