Maddy Whittier is almost 18.
But she's never been outside.
Well, not that she can remember, anyway. The last time she breathed unfiltered outside air, she was a very sick infant.
Maddy tells us that she's got a rare, potentially fatal condition known as SCID: Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Her immune system is basically nonexistent. Which means the house where she lives with her diligent, vigilant, competent mother—who's a medical doctor herself—is hermetically sealed from the outside world. The front door is a sci-fi style air lock. Maddy's clothes—all white, as if symbolizing the sterilized world she lives in—are irradiated with ultraviolent light to sterilize them.
Maddy's assessment of her isolated life? "I feel like an astronaut trapped in space," she says. "Every day is exactly the same."
And so it is: surfing the internet, reading, exercising, talking with her kind nurse of 15 years, Carla. It's not that Maddy's life is bad, per se. It's just that the outside world she dreams of experiencing is forever off limits to her.
It's an existence Maddy's mostly made peace with. Until, that is, the day he shows up.
Olly Bright is Maddy's new next door neighbor. And as fate would have it, Olly's bedroom window is right across from hers—essentially making it impossible for the pair of dangerously curious teens to ignore each other.
Olly writes his cell phone number on his window. Texting ensues. And sharing. Lots of sharing. Favorites (book, word, color, vice, person). Stories (she's sick and her dad and brother died in a car accident after she was born; his dad can't ever keep a job long). And, of course, feelings: "You're beautiful," Olly soon tells her.
Maddy and Olly's budding relationship takes a quantum leap forward when Maddy coaxes Carla into letting the boy into the house to actually talk to her. They'll have to stay on opposite sides of the room, of course. But at least they can have a real face-to-face conversation.
Maddy promises she'll be good.
But we all know that lovestruck teens aren't always reliable when it comes to keeping promises. Especially when they reach the risky conclusion that experiencing life, even if only for a brief time, is more important than actually staying alive.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the sections below.]
To his credit, Olly is never the one pushing to get closer, physically speaking, to Maddy. He's respectful and concerned, and even when Maddy decides to kiss him, Olly's hesitant and unsure whether it's OK.
In some ways, Pauline is a conscientious, caring and sacrificial parent in her tenacious attempts to protect her daughter from anything that could make her sick.
Maddy says, "The universe took my dad and brother from my mom."
Maddy wears form-fitting tops—T-shirts, tank tops, camisoles—for virtually the entire movie. We also see her in a cleavage-revealing swimming suit.
Maddy and Olly eventually close all that distance between them, kissing passionately a number of times. At Maddy's plotting instigation, they head off to Hawaii together on what feels in many ways like an idyllic honeymoon … except, of course, that they're unmarried teens. They share a day swimming, cuddling and kissing in the ocean, and return to the bungalow they've booked.
Olly seems awkwardly willing to sleep on "his side of the bed," and, to his credit, doesn't immediately press for more physical intimacy. But when Maddy lifts her hair to reveal the zipper on her dress, it's a clear indicator that she's willing to "share" the bed. Accordingly, we see Olly unzip Maddy's dress, followed by close-ups of the couple's ecstatic embrace in bed (bare shoulders are seen) which make it clear that they're consummating their relationship.
Olly and his father have a volatile relationship. In one scene, they trade blows to the face with their fists, prompting Maddy to run outside to see if Olly's OK.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear one use each of the s-word and "h---." God's name is misused once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At one point early on, Olly sits on his bedroom window pane with what looks to be an alcoholic beverage and an unnamed plastic bottle of prescription medication.
Other Negative Elements
Maddy lies repeatedly to her mother, hiding her relationship with Olly. Carla participates in the cover-up as well—earning her termination when Maddy's mom eventually figures out what's been going on.
Pauline forbids Maddy from ever seeing Olly again, re-emphasizing that doing so could cost Maddy her life. Maddy, however, decides the risk is worth it. So much so that she gets a credit card online, books tickets to Hawaii for her and Olly, and lies to him about being in remission to get him to say yes to going there with her.
That said, the biggest deception in the film isn't Maddy's. The teen ends up sick and hospitalized in Hawaii before her mom brings her home. A follow-up conversation between Maddy and her doctor from Hawaii reveals that Maddy doesn't have SCID, a fact that Maddy confirms by rifling through the records her mother has carefully kept.
Maddy then angrily confronts her mother regarding the deception, and her mom tries to justify it by describing how scared she was to lose Maddy (who, admittedly, was very sick as a baby) after already losing her husband and son. Though the film ends with the suggestion that Maddy might one day forgive Pauline for depriving her of her entire childhood because of her mom's obsessive, selfish fears, that reconciliation doesn't happen by the time the credits roll.
Maddy Whittier's sad, sick plight is a deeply sympathetic one. After all, what viewer wouldn't adore a spunky, beautiful, curious, intelligent teen who simply wants a taste of what the world's all about?
But therein lies the root of this film's substantial philosophical problem: Everything, Everything invites us to root for and to romanticize a teen's decision to potentially risk her life for a taste of freedom. And that particular taste involves a lot more than just, say, venturing down to the beach in Southern California where she lives. Instead, Maddy clandestinely obtains a credit card, buys tickets to Hawaii and jets off with the boy next door who soon becomes her lover.
And the problems don't stop there. The film further rationalizes Maddy's potentially disastrous choices by suggesting that apart from her rebellious risk—and rebellious, romantic or not, is exactly what it is—she never would have learned that her supposed condition was actually the imaginative concoction of her obsessive, overprotective mother. So not only are there no negative consequences for Maddy's risky choices, she's rewarded for them.
There might, ironically, be a good cautionary message here for anxiety-riddled helicopter parents. But as a parent myself, I couldn't help but feel aghast at the way Everything, Everything glorifies an admittedly adorable teen girl's increasingly reckless choices.
To better understand how this movie and the book differ, compare this movie review with Plugged In's book review for Everything, Everything.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Amandla Stenberg as Maddy Whittier; Nick Robinson as Olly Bright; Anika Noni Rose as Pauline Whittier; Ana de la Reguera as Carla; Danube Hermosillo as Rosa; Taylor Hickson as Kayra
Stella Meghie ( )
Warner Bros., MGM
May 19, 2017
August 15, 2017