REVIEW: ‘Everything, Everything’ is a teen romance with too much adult content

May 19th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Everything, Everything’ is a teen romance with too much adult content

Maddy is a smart and optimistic 18-year-old who loves everything that is great about the world—the oceans and mountains, the trees and grass.

Sadly, though, she has never experienced any of it.

She tells us she suffers from a rare disease that prevents her from going outside her own house. That means she wears only white T-shirts, eats only certain foods, and breaths only filtered air. An airlock—the type found on spaceships—greets visitors who enter the front door. If she leaves the house, we’re told, she will die.    

Maddy seems destined to live the rest of her life as a hermit, until a new family moves next door. The family just so happens to include a teenage boy, and that teenage boy just so happens to spot Maddy through a window. She sees him, too, and pretty soon, they’re texting. Then talking. Then falling in love. But can a relationship bloom if two people can’t even meet in person?  

It’s all part of Everything, Everything (PG-13), a romantic drama that opens in theaters this weekend. It is based on a young adult bestselling novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon and stars Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as Maddy, Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) as her romantic interest Olly, and Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog) as Maddy’s mom, Pauline.

It is being marketed to teens and young adults with the catchy slogan “risk everything … for love.” No doubt, the film is cleaner than most romantic movies, although that’s not saying much by Hollywood standards.

Warning: minor spoilers

The Good

Olly truly cares about Maddy’s health and even orders her to go back inside when she exits the house during an emergency. Later in the film, when she wants to explore the world even more, he displays an extreme reluctance.

Any movie that contains lots of texting can grow tedious, but filmmakers solved this by having Maddy imagine what the digital conversation would be like if she and Olly were together. So when they’re texting, we’re seeing her daydream about the two of them on a date. It is a nice, creative touch. 

Maddy tells several lies to her mom, but she is caught each time. (Even animated films don’t always show the negative consequences of lying.)

Everything, Everything has a surprising ending that some will like and some will hate. I liked it.   

Finally, for the first half of the movie, the romance stays entertaining and puppy-love-sweet. Alas, though, the family-friendly romance doesn’t last …

The Bad

Everything, Everything is one of those “if only” films. As in, “if only that wasn’t in there.” In this instance, there are at least two big “if onlys.”

First, the puppy love soon turns adult-oriented, and they have sex (which is not surprising if you watched the trailer). Everything remains covered on-screen, but the passionate kissing and the flashes of skin will spoil the film for many viewers. (The Space Between Us, a teen romance that was released earlier this year and had similar themes, had the same problem.) The latest government data tells us that a majority of high school teens have not had sex. If only Hollywood would give us movies reflecting that demographic.

Second, Maddy wears several short skirts and very low-cut outfits, including one on a date and one while swimming (even though it is a one-piece). It distracts from the story.  

Additionally, a major turning point involves Maddy disobeying her mom. By then she is 18, meaning she is legally an adult, but teens watching it may not understand the distinction.

Content-wise, the rest of the movie is quite tame. They kiss several times. There are about three coarse words (OMG, s--t, he--). And we see some violence (Olly and another man punch one another in the face; Maddy and her mom watch the movie Moonstruck, where the actress Cher slaps a man).   

Spiritual Content

You’d think a movie that spotlights a young woman who wants to get out and enjoy creation would have something about God in it. Alas, it doesn’t, at least not directly.

The Worldview

Maddy displays a child-like joy and wonder of nature that all Christians should exhibit. Oh, sure, we get that way at the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, but Maddy gets that way around everything. That’s because she knows nothing about a warm spring breeze or a flower-covered field—things we witness regularly. It’s all new for her! The Psalmist tells us that “those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs” (Psalm 65:8). Sadly, though, too often we take those “signs” for granted.

It’s also worth considering a couple of questions that the movie raises: What is the meaning of life? And what does it mean to “be alive”? Is the answer to find love and pleasure, as the movie implies? Or is the answer to glorify God? The Bible is clear: Love and pleasure can be great things, but only by serving God will we find true joy (not to mention true love and pleasure).

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Everything, Everything is funny and entertaining … even if it has a few big caveats. Thumbs up.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

Remove the sex scene and Maddy’s immodest choice of attire, and I could recommend this one for most ages. But that scene is quite steamy, and her clothes are quite distracting. If I had teenage boys watching it with me, I would have been very uncomfortable in the theater. It deserves its PG-13 rating. Everything, Everything comes so close to being family-friendly, but it simply isn’t.

Discussion Questions

1. What would you miss most if you had to live in a house without going outside?

2. Why don’t we have the same excitement about life and nature that Maddy has?

3. What did you think of the ending? What would you have done if you were Maddy?

4. What does it mean to “be alive” as Maddy asked?

5. Who loved Maddy more, her mom or Olly?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars  

“Everything, Everything” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality.