“If I ever went outside, I’d die,” says Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) early in Everything, Everything. It’s a teen weepie setup if ever there was one: Maddy has a disease which keeps her from ever leaving home, so she stays cooped up in her family’s ultramodern, window-filled home. Her father and brother died in a car crash when she was a child and the spacious house is just occupied by Maddy, her overbearing doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose), and, occasionally her nurse (Ana de la Reguera).
It’s a lonely, improbable existence made instantly compelling by Stenberg’s abundant charisma. Maddy is bright and surprisingly positive, and not the type of melodramatic caricature we may expect. The plot thickens when a boy, Olly Bright (Nick Robinson) moves in next door, into a house that conveniently has a large window positioned directly toward Maddy’s room. That the two charming teens develop an attraction to each other is no surprise, but after spending much of its runtime ambling along on twee flirtation and Maddy’s increasing frustration, the film takes a strange, not entirely unanticipated turn, while keeping up its sunny veneer.
Ultimately, Everything, Everything is like a Taylor Swift video (specifically “You Belong With Me”) with a dark psychological trauma at its heart that it never fully probes. There’s some novelty to be had in this clash of aesthetic and psychology, and director Stella Meghie makes some cutely stylized choices in conveying Maddy’s feelings of isolation. Maddy enjoys building architectural models and often thinks of her predicament as similar to an astronaut’s. The models and the astronaut both show up in scenes where Maddy fantasizes about getting closer to Olly. There’s an uncanny quality when we see them chatting at a diner, and the fantasy suitably conveys a sense of being so close yet so far.