Synopsis – A shy teenager falls for someone who transforms into another person every day.
My Take – Is it just me or that we all are just glad to see YA adaptations dying a slow death. Seriously, in a time when audiences are demanding more diversity and representation from creators, films about a male/ female protagonist stuck in a love triangle along with being the leader of a revolution, and erratic Nicholas Sparks adaptations, just don’t seem like the right fit. Nevertheless, director Michael Sucsy, best known for his other romantic drama, The Vow, which starred Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, in his adaption of the bestselling book of the same name by David Levithan, aims to take the concept of teen romance to a unique level, where it has an equal chance of leaving you in tears or scratching your head. Raising the question – what if you could be someone else every day? This teen romance sheds an important light on the idea of loving someone for their internal spirit rather than their external looks. With touches on mental health, LGBTQ+ gender identity and relationships, and the importance of empathy, the film definitely has some insightful and thought-provoking themes, yet somehow doesn’t quite stick its landing, and often falls into familiar tropes that can be hard to get past. However, the good news is that it does stand out from a lot of YA romances. The story follows Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), an insecure 16-year-old high school student with a shitty boyfriend in the form of Justin (Justice Smith), until, one day, he starts listening, asking questions, liking good music, and acting silly—giving her the best day she’s had in years. The next, he’s back to being the same old ways: distant and uncaring, with a fondness for getting wasted, fooling around, and tuning into sports radio.
Lucky for Rhiannon, it seems like every day thereafter she meets one of a diverse series of new sympathetic strangers who’re nice to her, tuck her hair behind her ear, and criticize Justin. She soon discovers that Justin and this other people were all possessed by an entity named A, a consciousness who wakes up every day in a different body, and never the same one twice. It was actually A who spent the perfect date with her, and now he wants to be a part of her life permanently. Rhiannon initially struggles with this information; however she decides to give him a chance. Soon A and Rhiannon find themselves falling for each other, which is something that creates a lot of complications as they endeavor to find a way for A to stay permanently. As unconventional as the plot may sound, somehow the producers found a way to make the original idea feel extremely cliché. Between the writing and the stereotypical character types, what could have been an impactful film for all kinds of people became the typical “high school girl who doesn’t know what she deserves” kind of film. Yet, the film does manage to keep viewers engaged, and there are definitely some good laugh-out-loud moments. Successfully engaging us with a strong first and second act, it sets us up as to who Rhiannon is and the world that she leaves behind for this fantastical love. The second act shows us all the complications that come with this set up. Unfortunately, the third act feels rushed, as the emotional climax is cut short, and also brings in a slight twist that never gets fully explored. The subplots that are carefully laid out in the first two acts are resolved quickly and without much fanfare to make way for the big finale. The result was a hurried final act that left me more confused than satisfied. The writing also borders on predictable. After Rhiannon opens up about her dad’s mental health struggles, she says the clichéd “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.” There are also a lot of running-and-holding-hands that begins to feel sillier than its likely intended. Throughout, the film also raises metaphysical issues of physical and psychological autonomy only to gloss over them as soon as things start to get serious. For example, does A. morally have a right to kiss someone with someone else’s body?—only to gloss over them, probably because addressing them could too quickly shut down the romance. Later, when A and Rhiannon discuss the logistics of their future together, the film offers a hypothetical flash-forward onscreen, which would be the most powerful moment in the film if director Sucsy were better at conveying what, exactly, is being hypothesized through his images. Sure, the surprisingly distinct personality of A brings up so many questions for the audience that the film could practically start a new philosophy on the idea of identity. Audience members find themselves questioning what it is that makes you, why we look toward outwardly appearances and gender as indicators and how one measures their “mark” on this earth — deep stuff. But it seems that the director and producers were so overwhelmed on deciding which message to steer the film towards that they just tried to deliver them all. And when a car tries to steer itself in a million different directions, it’s bound to end up nowhere. Even though the film leaves the audience with some sense of inspiration, the film fails to achieve a larger meaning and take advantage of some very relevant issues in our world today. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the concept of A’s body-hopping is a mind-boggling one.
But it’s also a surprisingly smart device that could, quite possibly, encourage empathy for those who seem to fall outside of traditional conventions of gender and sexuality. The film seems to know this, too: At one point in the film, A wakes up in the body of a Trans student (Ian Alexander). After politely reminding Rhiannon of the boy’s preferred pronouns, A remarks that, sometimes, what’s in someone’s head doesn’t always match up with their body. For its part, A decides that every day it inhabits a new person it will work to give that person the best day ever, making sure he or she knows they’re loved and valued, and appreciating what makes them unique. A inhabits a number of adolescents with hard struggles: a blind boy, an Asian girl who struggles with suicidal thoughts, a young black boy whose parents heavily restrict him and many other people. A also decides not to stay in any person’s body for too long because it will take away from the life that person is living. That said, he makes an exception with the Asian girl, staying two days in order to help her father understand how deep his daughter’s suicidal struggles are. In doing so, the film makes a strong anti-suicide statement, and it simultaneously emphasizes the importance of parents in helping their children with this difficult issue. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have any likable moments, of course it does, among them my favorite would be when A actually inhabits Rhiannon herself, and the spirit (working through Rhiannon) makes plans to help her family draw closer together. Rhiannon confronts her mother, who is cheating on their father. But instead of condemning her, Rhiannon tells her that everyone changes, and asks that she work to make their marriage last. The film also demonstrates the importance of loving someone for who they really are, not for who you want them to be. It acknowledges that loving others can be hard at times, especially when they go through difficult changes (such as the struggles Rhiannon’s father experiences due to his mental health issues). The film also wouldn’t have remained so watchable if it weren’t for the cohesive performances of all the actors who took over the role of A. Even though, throughout the film A takes over many bodies, the character is kept grounded by a few key actors who are stellar in their portrayal of the same personality. Among them, Justice Smith had perhaps the toughest task of all. He had to portray the audience’s first look at A, and then for the rest of the movie, Smith plays the real Justin — a lousy boyfriend who is nothing like the kind and caring A. The transformation is fascinating to watch, and Smith‘s tender portrayal of A is carried through the rest of the movie by the other actors. The other standout is Owen Teague, who has to also pull off two different characters (both A and Alexander). His performance is infectiously charming, and helps seal your understanding of why Rhiannon fell in love with this spirit. Other notable actors who take on A were Ian Alexander, Lucas Jade Zumann, Jeni Ross, Sean Jones and Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming). Angourie Rice as the girl at the center of all this is amazing as a sweet girl, in the midst of her teenage years, and consumed by these feelings that she is probably too young and inexperienced to properly navigate. She makes this love believable. Maria Bello, Michael Cram and Debby Ryan as members of Rhiannon’s family are likable in small roles. On the whole, ‘Every Day‘ is a flawed YA romantic film which despite its unevenness deserves points for its originality, creativity and good intentions.
Directed – Michael Sucsy
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 95 minutes