The Sky Is Everywhere (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A shy, teenage musician tries to keep things together in the aftermath of her older, more outgoing sister’s death.

My Take – Though the YA adaption craze which sprung up with The Fault in Our Stars (2014) adaption seems to have dyed down in the last few years, with most relegating to finding success on Netflix and other streaming platforms, occasionally there are a few which spring up and garner attention mainly due to the people involved and their distinctive approach, in this case, indie powerhouse A24 and filmmaker Josephine Decker (Madeline’s Madeline, Shirley).

An adaptation of the 2010 young adult novel of the same name by Jandy Nelson, this unique new teen drama which released on Apple TV+ isn’t your typical teen love story that you have come to expect from these kind of films, but instead is more about finding a way to survive deep sorrow while deadline with grappling issues of romance.

Backed by Grace Kaufman‘s heartfelt lead performance, here, director Josephine Decker uses the writing of Jandy Nelson (who also wrote the film) and brings a wholly original theatrical style to the YA genre, by setting it as a visually ambitious charmer, she happily inserts her artistic expressions and fuses them harmoniously with dramatic choreography and rhythmic music to create a whimsical film that will end up satisfying fans as well draw applause from casual viewers.

The story follows Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman), a reserved yet gifted clarinetist high schooler who’s grieving the sudden death of her joyful older sister, Bailey (Havana Rose Liu). Deeply struggling to comprehend her death, Lennie has spent months at home with her eccentric grandmother (Cherry Jones) and free-spirited Uncle Big (Jason Segel), who raised both girls together after their mother died of the same heart condition that Bailey suffered.

Lennie doesn’t even find joy in preparing for her Julliard audition or playing in general, but instead leaves poems and notes for Bailey on wrappers, leafs, even broken off wood, in hopes of staying of connecting with her. But when she does return to school, she is immediately enchanted by Joe Fontaine (Jacques Colimon), a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, who joined in Lennie’s absence.

While Joe and Lennie instantly hit it off, their budding romance is complicated by Lennie’s intense, grief-induced relationship with Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby (Pico Alexander), who also seems to be attracted to her in their suffering as much as her.

Beginning with solidly setting up how the sisters were closer than most siblings because they were orphans who shared a room, shared similar dreams of attending Julliard together, and the experience of being raised by their bohemian grandmother and uncle. The film moves on to become wonderfully honest about the fact that grief is an ugly, awful thing, something that can often make us awful as a result of our feeling it.

Of course, in the midst of her grief, she makes some confusing and bad choices while making some wise and good ones. Lennie’s abandonment of her friends, her occasionally breathtaking cruelty toward anyone, her desire to self-sabotage all of the things she’d planned to do with her life, these are all understandable behaviors, even if they can often make Lennie hard to like.

Sure, a film aimed at the teenage market cannot leave out, teen-angst, by falling into a melodrama of some kind. But the film deals with it sensibly, adding the state of emotional confusion and other teenage dilemmas into the grieving process. Even the adults, Lennie’s grandmother and uncle, who seem to be the cliché loving hippy family unit, who entertain and enlighten at the same time.

Mostly, however, what makes the film stand out is its colorful cinematography from Ava Berkofsky and the creative, careful production design from Grace Yun who help imagine Lennie’s world. Here, Josephine Decker manages to find unexpected and beautiful ways to visually represent Lennie’s emotional state.

The film is full of strange and surprising images that include everything from over-the-top riots of color to claustrophobic, almost horror-like darkness. From the faceless rose-people who rise from the ground to form a human-plant hybrid wreath around Lennie and Joe during an important moment to the impromptu dance sequence that breaks out as Lennie reminisces about her sister’s love of music to the forest that suddenly starts raining broken furniture.

Although there is an overuse of CGI dream sequences in lieu of honest emotions, director Decker proudly revels in Lennie’s scattered uniqueness, even as she navigates the minefield of her choices that add color and depth to an otherwise fairly simple and straightforward story. The same can generally be said of the whole film itself, which puts a fresh spin on an age-old topic.

It also helps that Grace Kaufman is believable as the sad, confused, and emotionally volatile Lennie, who feels utterly alone without her vibrant sister. Kaufman’s performance is the highlight of the film, as she deftly conveys the riot of emotions that seem to exist within Lennie at any given moment. Even during Lennie’s ugliest moments, Kaufman manages to keep the character sympathetic and relatable, and her clear emotional desperation is palpable throughout much of the film.

Both Cherry Jones and Jason Segal bring in a pair of truly weird but charming bit of performances that should have been give more screen time. While Jacques Colimon and Pico Alexander are splendid in portraying their contrasts. In smaller roles, Julia Schlaepfer, Havana Rose Liu and Ji-young Yoo are delightful. On the whole, ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ is a heartfelt and inventive portrayal of grief through color, music and romance.

Directed – 

Starring – Jason Segel, Cherry Jones, Pico Alexander

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 103 minutes

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