We know what you’re thinking: boys meets girl. Color the boy a leather jacket wearing, scruffy, bad seed from the wrong side of the tracks. Color the heroine a good girl, as sweet as pie and All-American as cheeseburgers and fries. Never color them Black. Never color them multifaceted. Romantic movies are all the same, right?
Not so fast. If someone you love is obsessed with romance novel veteran Nicholas Sparks, odds are they have spent a tearstained night or two reading the NY Times bestseller Everything, Everything, by rising author Nicola Yoon.
We know romance films can be a hard sell, but hear us out. CASSIUS breaks down the reasons you should check out Everything, Everything— and the film’s leading lady, Amandla Stenberg even backed us up.
Check out our take, and Stenberg’s exclusive commentary, below.
1 AMANDLA STENBERG. NEED WE SAY MORE?
This 18-year-old powerhouse is a true force. Since their debut as the scene-stealing Rue in The Hunger Games, Amandla has become one of the coolest teens on the planet, who marches to the beat of their own drum. They will not mince words when they eye cultural appropriation— most recently, they called out Kylie Jenner on social media for yet again adopting Black hairstyles and lingo, without any intention of speaking on the issues that affect Black people. Amandla’s completely unafraid to confront sexism and the gender binary head on, in a way that traditional “teen queens” would never, in the fear of upsetting movie studios and brand sponsors. As most millennials, social media has empowered them, as they stated in an ELLE interview: “And I think the internet has guided me in terms of—I’ve been able to scroll through my Tumblr dashboard and see people who look like me and realize that my identity in itself is pretty kickass.” We agree, Amandla. We agree.
Amandla’s take: “I think there’s tons of me in her [Maddy]. I think in many ways I just got to play a more naïve, more bubbly, more clueless version of myself. But also there’s a lot of intelligence to her, a lot of conviction and strength. And that’s what I like about her.”
2 DON’T EXPECT THE TYPICAL INTERRACIAL DATING NARRATIVE.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Everything, Everything, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the film is about Amandla’s forbidden love affair with the white guy next door. Not hardly. Although Everything, Everything has a diverse casting makeup, it’s all nuanced. Maddy (played by Stenberg) just happens to be Black and Japanese. Her mother (played by Anika Noni Rose) just happens to be a successful Black doctor with one of the sickest homes you’ve ever seen. By stripping the predictable interracial love affair jargon out of the plot, there’s no need to put Maddy in any box. She plays Scrabble and watches cheesy ’80s films like Cher’s Moonstruck with her mom. She’s just living, and that’s the way Black girls should be portrayed. Just living.
Amandla’s take: “I think it’s really powerful for not just Black people, but for everyone to see Black people purely existing. I think if you have Black people existing, sometimes that can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than when you have a story about a Black person that is specifically exploring race. When you just see a Black person existing, or you see a character like Maddy who could be white, could be anything, and she’s Black… the world is a diverse place, and there are biracial girls in the world.”
3 GUYS DO DEAL WITH REAL ISSUES, LIKE ABUSE.
Although the film largely deals with Maddy’s thirst to live fully, despite being told she has a rare disease that’s kept her homebound since she was just a baby, Olly is not just a one-dimensional knight in shining armor. Everything, Everything touches on the way parental abuse and alcoholism can tear a family apart. As much as Olly protects Maddy in the film, he’s fighting his own battles, and that can resonate with male viewers of the soon-to-be teen hit.
4 THE SOUNDTRACK IS LIT.
Say goodbye to the humid North Carolina beach scenes from The Notebook, set to obscure alternative bands. Although we still love a good Coldplay jam, the soundtrack for Everything, Everything features songs you’ve probably bumped in your car. Alessia Cara and Kehlani make appearances, and you’ll be introduced to new soul jams that will compel you to whip out your Shazam app in the middle of the theater.
Amandla’s take: “Girl” by The Internet is in there. “Let My Baby Stay” is in there. That was a song I actually pushed to get in there, I covered the song. The score is incredible, it’s tender. It kind of reminds me of film scores in ‘70s French films.”
Everything, Everything is out in theaters this Friday. And like Amandla says, finally Black girls get their moment to just be, and that alone makes it a special moment. “We get to have our own kind of film, Amandla says. “Let’s make the younger diverse Black Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Let’s make something for Black girls who want to see themselves in something colorful and creative and magical.”