Film

Love conquers all for confined teenager
Everything Everything (12A)
Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson in Everything Everything.

Maddy has spent most of her 18-year life cooped up in her custom-built California home. Her world is the internet. She can’t go outside the door because she suffers from a rare condition SCID (Severe Combined Immuno Deficiency). Translated into English, that means her immune system doesn’t work. Any virus could kill her.

She lives with her mother Pauline, a doctor. Her father and brother were killed in a car crash when she was a baby.  Besides Pauline, there are only two other people in Madeleine’s life: her nurse Carla and Carla’s daughter Rosa. They have to pass through an antechamber to see her.

One day a new set of neighbours arrive. Maddy looks down at them from her bedroom window. And falls in love with one of them.

Olly is a loner like herself. They’re drawn to one another by their alienation from others. Olly’s father is cruel. His mother is trying to work up the courage to leave him.

Maddy and Olly communicate by texts and emails. They wave to one another from their respective windows. They mime words and smile.

And then they meet. Nurse Carla arranges it. They’re smitten with one another. “I loved you before I knew you,” Maddy says obliquely to Olly.

Maddy’s mother isn’t happy about the rendezvous. She dismisses Carla for putting Maddy’s life at risk. A more strict nurse replaces her. She gives Maddy less freedom.

But a fire has been lit in her heart. Watching people from windows isn’t enough for her anymore. She wants to experience life. She wants to see the sea.

She buys two plane tickets for Olly and herself to go to Hawaii. She tells him she’s cured of her malady and he believes her.  So they go off, Romeo and Juliet style, on their idyllic holiday.

How will the Hawaiian trip end? Will Maddy die from love? This is what we expect will happen.  It’s how most Hollywood films about people with strange diseases end. But Everything, Everything has a big twist in it. It’s the most interesting thing about it. I won’t tell you what it is.

Visually it’s a bit like a Bounty bar ad. There are dreamy walks on the beach. There are golden sunsets. There are songs.

It’s not long before the girl who told Olly she would “spontaneously combust” if she went outdoors starts jumping from cliffs and swimming underwater like Jacques Cousteau. What’s going on?

Don’t expect too much reality from this blancmange slice of escapism. It’s schmaltzy but it still holds your attention, thanks mainly to the charming performances of Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson in the leading roles.

Stella Meghie directs. She carries the hermetically-sealed idea even into the outdoors. It was only when I left the cinema it struck me that Maddy and Olly didn’t meet a soul during their Hawaiian holiday.

Everything, Everything is clever, clever.

Good ***