Director: Stella Meghie
Writer: J. Mills Goodloe
Based on: Nicola Yoon‘s novel
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube Hermosillo, Dan Payne, Fiona Loewi
Seen on: 4.7.2017
Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), meaning that her immune system is so weak that just being outside could literally kill her. So she grows up at home, cared for by her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose) and her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), her social contacts pretty much limited to them, Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo) and the internet. That is, until a new family moves in next door. Their teenage son Olly (Nick Robinson) catches a glimpse of Maddy, and they start a written correspondence that soon develops into something more.
There are many things that Everything, Everything gets right, but I’m not sure that they’re outweighed by the ableist fuckery the story devolves into.
Here are the things the film gets very right: Amandla Stenberg is amazing. And it’s awesome to get a romance that features a black woman as the lead (including non-fetishizing remarks about how beautiful her hair is), directed by a black woman. And given that the plot sounds like the embodiment of angst, it was wonderful that everything about the film is cute and sweet and smiling, even in the darker moments. It helps that the film comes with a great sense of humor. I also loved the soundtrack and the production design that feed this beautiful and charming atmosphere.
The film really is a pleasure to watch, both aesthetically and in terms of the entertainment. The problems only start when you take a second to think about the breathtaking ableism that makes the story: In a twist (that for some reason was widely announced in the trailer to the film already) it is revealed that Maddy isn’t actually sick with SCID but that her mother lied to her to protect her from the big bad world.
This reveal is basically a non-magical version of the magic cure trope where part of the happy end is that the disability disappears so people don’t actually have to deal with the implications of being disabled. It shows disability as something that keeps people from being happy and something that is best get rid of. And it shows disabled people as inherently unhappy and incapable of having a happy end. I was afraid that the film would go there, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t.
That entire resolution is problematic to say the least. Next to it the line “I loved you before I knew you”, that I hated for its superficial romanticism that in my opinion promotes a very weird and problematic idea of what love is, is barely worth metioning.
If the film had only told the story with a different ending, I would have loved it basically without reservation. But the ableism really ruined things for me.
Summarizing: I would have loved to like it, but it was too ableist for that.