Every Day movie review: a slightly more challenging teen romance

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Every Day yellow light Justice Smith

MaryAnn’s quick take…

It’s not as daring as its endearing protagonist, and its fantastical scenario plays out rather lifelessly. But its gentle exploration of the fluidity of human physical and emotional expression is very welcome.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies about girls and women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

High-schooler Rhiannon (Angourie Rice: Spider-Man: Homecoming) has a new special friend: A, a soul who wakes up in a different body every day. Always someone of A’s age — also late teens — and someone in the same general geographic area, but never the same person twice. It’s Quantum Leap as a YA romance, although unlike Dr. Samuel Beckett, who had to change something before he could leap again, A tries to remain unobtrusive and just observe the life of the person whose body A has borrowed. Until A meets Rhiannon, that is, and A feels a connection that compels A to seek her out anew each day, eventually convincing her of the truth of A’s odd life, and they embark on an even odder relationship.

Every Day never quite fulfills the promise of its ambition.

It’s an intriguing setup, and there’s an appealing sweetness to the movie, but Every Day — based on the bestselling novel by David Levithan — never quite fulfills the promise of its ambition. Rice is completely endearing, and, unlike in most movies about teens, she is not a 20something playing younger but actually age-appropriate to the role, which makes for an unusually plausible portrait of adolescent adventurousness mixed with a solid dose of confused angst. Some of the other kids whose body A inhabits are also played by actual teenagers, most notably Asian-American trans actor Ian Alexander. The most enchanting aspect of the story is, in fact, the wide array of bodies that A presents to Rhiannon, of multiple races and genders, and so the story becomes a gentle exploration of the fluidity of human physical and emotional expression: “Do you consider yourself a boy or a girl?” Rhiannon asks A; “Yes” is the reply.

Thank goodness A didn’t leap into the body of Rhiannon’s sister (Debby Ryan). That could have been awkward.
Thank goodness A didn’t leap into the body of Rhiannon’s sister (Debby Ryan). That could have been awkward.

Rhiannon isn’t fazed by this, but the movie isn’t as daring or accepting as she is: she mostly only kisses the straight cute cishet boys, and it’s definitely only them she does more with. But the biggest problem with the film is that, for all its tenderness and baby steps toward tolerance and openness, it’s nowhere near as dramatic as its scenario could handle, and nowhere near as philosophical about the moral implications of borrowing other people’s bodies as it could be. Perhaps the only truly surprising thing here is how ultimately lifeless and dull such a fantastical story can be.

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