20th Apr2018

‘Every Day’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Angourie Rice, Justice Smith, Jeni Ross, Lucas Jade Zumann, Rory McDonald, Katie Douglas, Jacob Batalon, Ian Alexander, Colin Ford, Jake Sim, Nicole Law, Karena Evans, Owen Teague, Maria Bello, Michael Cram | Written by Jesse Andrews | Directed by Michael Sucsy

every-day-poster

Based on the 2012 novel by David Levithan, Every Day serves up an intriguing blend of science-fiction fantasy and YA romance. The film’s unusual conceit comes with a side order of problematic plot points, but the script and the performances ensure that its positive central message wins out.

Directed by Michael Sucsy, the film centres on a spirit known only as “A”, who wakes up every day in a different body, a bit like Sam Beckett in TV’s Quantum Leap. The bodies are always the spirit’s age (around 16) and always within the same geographical area, and A is careful not to meddle too much in the lives of each person he inhabits.

That is, until he lands in the body of insensitive high schooler Justin (Justice Smith) and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon (The Nice Guys’ Angourie Rice). The pair spend the perfect day together and afterwards, A is compelled to seek Rhiannon out again and tell her the truth. Rhiannon is understandably sceptical at first, but she gradually comes to believe A and the pair attempt a decidedly unconventional relationship.

At heart, this is a story about looking beyond what’s on the surface, while also carrying a worthwhile message about the importance of listening and empathy in a relationship. The fact that A can inhabit a body of any race or gender makes a positive visual point in and of itself, though the film doesn’t quite have the courage to see that idea through – yes, Rhiannon kisses a girl, but that’s about as far as the film is willing to go. (The trailer indicates that at least one scene has been cut in that regard).

On a similar note, the film comes close to digging itself a number of large holes, not least over the issue of consent. It makes a passable stab at addressing the issue from one point of view (Rhiannon unknowingly kissing A when he was Justin), but it leaves the other side (i.e. the lack of consent from the inhabited body) frustratingly unresolved. Worse, we see the damage inflicted on one kid in particular, who believes he’s been possessed by the devil (a nod towards a jettisoned plotline that features heavily in the book), but the film quickly glosses over that story and leaves it frustratingly unresolved.

In different hands, those would be difficult obstacles to overcome (a cynic could also choose to view A as a creepy stalker), but the film ultimately works thanks to Rice’s extremely appealing, open hearted central performance, some welcome dashes of humour and Sucsy’s firm grasp of the tone. It also helps that the film makes the smart decision to shift the perspective of the book, so that Rhiannon becomes the main character and the emotional focus is on her happiness.

The film is well cast, generally. Justice Smith does an excellent job of portraying both the best and worst qualities of Justin and Owen Teague brings a thoughtful quality to his role as Alexander, another of A’s host bodies. There’s also a great single-scene turn from Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Jacob Batalon, whose likeable presence transforms a standard exposition sequence into one of the film’s best scenes.

In addition, Sucsy has a strong sense of the correct boxes to tick for the YA romance genre and he orchestrates a succession of enjoyable sequences, including a couple of perfect date montages, a goofy dancing scene and not one but two cool sing-along sequences (to The The’s Perfect Day, no less). Sucsy also has a good ear for teen dialogue and the film makes inspired use of Instagram, upgrading from the book’s email account, but in a way that the author probably kicked himself for not thinking up in the first place.

Ultimately, Every Day is not without its problems, but at least they’re the sort of problems that lend themselves to informed discussion afterwards. At any rate, there’s no denying that the film’s heart is in the right place, and it ultimately succeeds thanks to its offbeat premise and a spirited central performance from Angourie Rice.

*** 3/5

Every Day is in UK cinemas from Friday April 20th.

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