Film Review: Every DayA topical love story that doesn’t burden its romance with its politics.
This YA novel adaptation has a premise that may induce groans in some older, hardened members of the viewing public: A young girl falls in love with someone who wakes up in the body of a different teen every day. “A,” as this—spirit? persona? bodyless being?—calls itself, always inhabits the body of someone its own age, although that someone could be either a boy or a girl, and always near the last body it borrowed. “A” is a cheerful soul who has never had much reason to lament its itinerant existence—until it inhabits the body of Justin (“The Get Down”’s Justice Smith, a star on the rise), who is boyfriend to the beautiful and sensitive Rhiannon (Angourie Rice from The Beguiled).
After spending a day as Justin skipping class with his girlfriend, “A” falls for Rhi. At first, Rhi doesn’t know what to think, as different, strange girls and boys keep giving her a special “look” and using the same affectionate gesture to tuck the hair behind her ear. But soon “A” convinces Rhi of the bizarre truth, and she finds herself falling right back, crushing on and sometimes kissing “A,” regardless of whether “A” is black or white or an Asian boy or girl.
Could there be a more modern love story for liberal America, one more suited to our diversity-inclusion, gender-fluid age? And yet the nice thing about Every Day is that despite its obvious topicality, its politics remain, however apparent, low-key. The closest the film comes to stating its implied thesis may be when “A” gently reminds Rhiannon of something “A” assumes Rhi already knows: “Not everyone’s body aligns with their mind.” Rhi accepts this remark and their conversation continues in a manner particular to their characters and the immediacy of their personal relationship. The story takes the fact that Rhi is falling in love with a personality and not in lust with a body for its fulcrum, but the film and the writing are canny enough not to blow foghorns over it or draw red arrows toward it or have their characters muse about it, and for that restraint alone, whatever you may think of the high-concept premise, Every Day should be acknowledged.
This narrative prudence must be due in large part to the novelistic instincts of screenwriter Jesse Andrews, who adapted the David Levithan (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) novel on which the film is based. Andrews previously wrote the novel and the adapted screenplay for 2015’s Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (which starred Thoroughbreds’ standout Olivia Cooke). He knows his way around both a character and a plot point, and his sensibility matched with the trim style of The Vow and Grey Gardens director Michael Sucsy, who smartly keeps the film down to an hour-and-a-half, makes for a chiefly successful combination.
That being said, the film does take up a good deal of time and dialogue explaining the way “A”’s life of amiable body-snatching works. It’s (mostly) important information that’s relayed as Rhi asks “A” question after question, but the fact that there is more than one scene that features Rhi asking “A” question after question is too bad, as they detract from the film’s forward motion. The ending, too, and the way in which Rhi’s romantic dilemma is resolved are a bit perplexing, given the movie’s emphasis on the importance of personality over body. At the beginning of the film, Rhi admits she has a type: a tall, slim guy with good shoulders. As the story progresses, we see she’s capable of caring for someone who does not meet her physical criteria. And yet, when her “perfect” match is found at last… Actually, it’s interesting to note the ending to the film makes more sense for our protagonist, Rhi, than it does for the story’s underlying politics. That may not be such a bad thing, after all.
A message film that doesn’t use a bullhorn, Every Day is, among other things, an exercise in not judging a YA-book adaptation by its trailer.
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