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Movie review: 'Everything' a whole lot of nothing remotely plausible

| Thursday, May 18, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Nick Robinson and Amandla Stenberg in 'Everything, Everything.'

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) is a real thing. The teen romance "Everything, Everything," about a girl with SCID who can't leave her house for fear of dying from a common cold — it's like being allergic to everything, she says — is not.

Inside her hermetically sealed Los Angeles mansion, which includes an airlock, a machine for irradiating her wardrobe of plain white T-shirts and a sanitizing bathtub, Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) lives with her widowed mother (Anika Noni Rose), who is, conveniently, a physician. Although Mom's specialization is never mentioned, she must be a celebrity plastic surgeon to afford this germaphobe-in-outer-space setup, which includes a full-time nurse/chef (Ana de la Reguera) and high-tech appliances controlled by Amazon Echo.

Maddy, who hasn't left the house in 17 years, is remarkably poised, articulate, well-adjusted and smart — a poster child for, presumably, home schooling who, having just turned 18, whiles away her time by reading, drawing, writing sassy, haikulike classic-movie reviews on her personal website and taking online architecture classes, for which she builds surprisingly accomplished scale models, all of which include a small astronaut figurine.

Get me to the doctor, stat. I think I'm allergic to that paragraph I just wrote.

Into this already too-perfect scenario comes a Cute Boy Next Door: Olly (Nick Robinson), who immediately strikes up a texting relationship with Maddy after they briefly lock eyes from their bedroom windows. In short order, they are exchanging flirty banter — or what passes for such, in the cloyingly arch screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe ("The Age of Adaline"), based on Nicola Yoon's 2015 YA novel.

Can the seal on Maddy's autoclaved world withstand the pressure of such swelling adolescent hormones — not to mention Yoon's plot requirements? Don't bet on it. Soon, Maddy and Olly are meeting for chastely unrequited face time, in which he proves his teenage Byronic mettle by offering such cheap poetic insights as, "The whole point of waves is to suck your feet from under you so that you drown faster."

To which Maddy, understandably smitten, replies: "I didn't see that dark turn coming."

More experienced viewers probably will, for their part, spot the movie's downbeat twists from a mile away. No amount of mental preparation, however, can vaccinate you against the one plot development that should, emphatically, not happen, but does.

Stenberg and Robinson are enormously appealing young actors, but charisma only goes so far in a story that manages to be, as directed by Stella Meghie ("Jean of the Joneses"), sterile and wildly far-fetched. A subplot involving Olly's abusive father is underdeveloped and goes nowhere, except as a device to further the robotic plot.

"I love you," Olly tells Maddy, at one point, to which she replies: "I loved you before I knew you." That line may look good on paper, but on-screen, like nearly everything else in the film, it comes out sounding not like actual human conversation, but like something a character like Maddy would say, if only she existed.

Michael O'Sullivan is a Washington Post staff writer.

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