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Everything, Everything

Based on Nicola Yoon's young adult novel, Everything, Everything is a relentlessly cute teen romance between two neighbours, whose path to true love is obstructed by cruel fate. Director Stella Meghie revels in the beauty of her lead actors, who exchange lustful glances in slow motion and share a trembling first kiss while Fourth of July fireworks explode with luxurious colour in the night sky. Amandla Stenberg is luminous as the stricken heroine with the compromised immune system, whose daydreams unfold in life-size versions of the cardboard models she constructs for an online architecture course. "I'm not a princess," she assures co-star Nick Robinson, effortlessly embodying a long-haired, skateboarding dreamboat, who always dresses in black to reflect his character's innate cynicism. "Good," he replies, "because I'm not a prince." The film's target audience of social media-savvy teenage girls will probably disagree, and director Meghie seizes every opportunity to pepper the screen with text messages to capture the frenzied pace of modern relationships. Some aspects of J Mills Goodloe's script feel contrived, and the execution of a key plot development to facilitate a teary-eyed finale verges on crass and offensive. Regardless, we want these two good-looking kids to have their happy ever after, if only for a few dreamily soft focus moments. Eighteen-year-old Maddy Whittier (Stenberg) was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) in infancy. The condition seriously threatens her health if she ventures outside the sliding glass doors of her decontaminated and hermetically sealed Los Angeles home. So she is confined to the building, where her fiercely protective mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), who is a doctor, oversees treatment with daily visits from a caring nurse called Carla (Ana de la Reguera). Maddy yearns to venture outside to see the ocean but she knows that every second over the threshold could be her last. One morning, Maddy notices Joe Bright (Dan Payne), his wife Mae (Fiona Loewi) and their two children, Olly (Robinson) and Kayra (Taylor Hickson), moving in next door. Maddy is immediately attracted to Olly but his awkward attempt to meet her is rebuffed by Pauline. So Olly scrawls a mobile telephone number on his bedroom window and the teenagers exchange flirtatious texts. Young romance blossoms and Maddy fantasises about exchanging germ-riddled saliva with the boy next door. "When I talk to him, it feels like I'm outside," she swoons to her concerned mother. "Love can't kill me," Maddy assures Pauline but the doctor diagnoses impending heartbreak. Everything, Everything preaches to teenage congregations, who flocked excitedly to The Fault In Our Stars. Meghie's film is a surprisingly sensuous depiction of adolescent yearning, underscored by a hip soundtrack. Stenberg and Robinson are an attractive pairing and their smouldering screen chemistry papers over cracks in the uneven script.