As gentle, pleasantly non-threatening teen romances go, you could do far worse than this adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s novel, about an 18-year-old named Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) who has spent her entire life inside her hermetically-sealed home with her widowed mother (Anika Noni Rose) because of an autoimmune disorder. Along comes new neighbor Olly (Nick Robinson), who sets her heart aflutter and complicates her isolated existence. Director Stella Meghie and screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe do a particularly fine job of turning the book’s text and email exchanges—which could have been leaden on screen—into fanciful sequences capturing Yoon’s playful sense of structure. The chemistry between Stenberg and Robinson may not be crackling—their chastely-filmed sex scene has them PG-13-ing each other real good—but both performers bring enough charm to their awkward courtship that it’s almost always satisfying. Leave aside some clunky plot machinations, including the question of how someone who’s never left the house has an ID for plane travel, and you’ve got a love story that hits the right notes in a way that’s sweet but rarely cloying.
Director: Stella Meghie
Producer: Leslie Morgenstein, Elysa Dutton and Victor Ho
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube Hermosillo, Dan Payne, Fiona Loewi, Sage Brocklebank, Robert Lawrenson, Peter Benson, Françoise Yip, Farryn VanHumbeck, Marion Eisman, Allison Riley and Valareen Friday