Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl cry.
The bittersweet teen romance is its own mini-genre, powering shelves of sad young-adult novels and soft-focus movies with Ansel Elgort or Mandy Moore, many of them driven by tragic accidents or terminal illnesses. A new entry from Australia adds a few new pleasures, but not nearly enough surprises.
Everything in Between – it even sounds like an old YA paperback – stars Jordan Dulieu as Jay, a rich kid with a serious case of clinical depression. In the emergency room after a suicide attempt, he meets Freyja Benjamin’s Liz, a free-spirited New Ager with an ugly rash – also a joy for life and a hunger for adventure.
Yep – cue the Magic Pixie Dream Girl tropes.
That, of course, is its own mini-genre – films about an eccentric female character whose chief purpose is to cheer up, or sexually liberate, some sad or uptight male. It’s not only vaguely sexist, it’s become ubiquitous in modern movies (although you can find early, far better versions of it going back to Something Wild or even Harold and Maude).
Everything in Between follows the tragic-teen template competently but a little too carefully. The plot is perfectly predictable. And director Nadi Sha never figures out the central problem: How do you dramatize depression? Although it’s a serious disease, it’s not naturally cinematic, and endless shots of someone staring blankly at the floor aren’t nearly enough.
The performances help, somewhat. Although Dulieu doesn’t get much to do but look blue, Benjamin is a spritely presence as Liz (although she seems a little too young to convince as the decade-older woman she’s supposed to be). And while Gigi Edgley goes overboard as Jay’s brittle mother, Martin Crewes is delightful as his back-slapping dad.
In fact, he may be too delightful. The character is written as a creep – a cold-hearted boss and serial adulterer who drinks like a fish and seems to have an eye for his teenage son’s new girlfriend. Yet Crewes is so charismatic, he brings real life to the movie. (And, in the end, not only humor but heart – his interest in Liz turns out to be paternal, not predatory.)
If there’s anything surprising here, it’s that none of the characters really change. Jay’s father doesn’t make a pass at Liz, but neither does he repent (nor does his wife kick him out); Jay’s mother doesn’t confront her own shallow values, or smothering overprotectiveness. Even the lack of a happy ending – no spoilers here, but it turns out Liz has her own serious challenges, too – is perfectly in keeping with the genre.
Which is perhaps the best, and worst, thing you can say about Everything in Between: It pretty much delivers everything you’re expecting. And while it might pull a quick tear or two from you by the end, your memory of it will disappear even faster.