As the old adage goes, all the good ones are taken—or they’re a disembodied, transient consciousness that transcends gender and sexuality and wakes up every morning in a different human shell. Such is the conundrum faced by the heroes of Every Day, which is satisfyingly adapted from David Levithan’s 2012 novel of the same name—until it’s not, as it de-evolves from a charming portrait of young, if unusual, love into a campy teen melodrama that feels too straight and white for its underlying mythology.
Angourie Rice headlines Michael Sucsy’s film as Rhiannon, a sad teenage girl with a rocky home life and a shitty boyfriend 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 Justin (Justice Smith): 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. Turns out, they’re all A., an incorporeal personality who has fallen for her.
Sucsy’s film smartly opens without voiceover or exposition. The novel was narrated by A., but the film—like Levithan’s 2015 follow-up companion, Another Day—focuses on Rhiannon. She’s the audience surrogate, struggling to comprehend the mystery of A., who wakes up each morning in a different body, always around the same age but otherwise infinitely diverse: male or female; trans or cis; straight or gay; fit or fat; less abled or abled; a person of color or white. Having walked countless miles in literally thousands of pairs of shoes, A. has generally adhered to a Hippocratic standard—to do no harm—until having spent a day as Justin and for the first time fallen in love.
The film appealingly captures a little bit of what Levithan excels at: the giddy thrill of new love. As when A. spends a day inhabiting Rhiannon and can’t stop smiling, or the two dance un-self-consciously at a party to The The’s 1983 song “This Is the Day.” But it can also be schmaltzy, and its second half has way too many pop-scored montages to spackle over the patchy plotting. By the end, viewers may start to feel like Rhiannon, and the film like Justin: loveable at first (when possessed by A.) but then familiarly disappointing.
Throughout, the film raises metaphysical issues of physical and psychological autonomy—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. More thematic potential, then, resides in the film’s transcendence of sexuality. A. asks Rhiannon to love A., regardless of sex or gender or ability or appearance—which she does, suggesting there’s a perfect self, reminiscent of a religious soul, that exists independent of the body and its hormones, biochemistry, and physiology.
But Every Day can’t even get this goofy adolescent romantic ideal right. Rhiannon kisses A. while A. is in the body of a girl only once, for a few quick seconds. Otherwise, Rhiannon kisses guys, and the most significant A.-possessed partners that she has, including suggested sexual partners, are white guys. It’s as if the film defaults to them. (She doesn’t kiss the one Pacific Islander-looking iteration of A., Jacob Batalon’s James, who just dispenses exposition and wisdom, suggesting the film’s version of a “magical negro”: the nonwhite character who guides a white one’s understanding.) Such casting makes the film’s central romance too heteronormative and racially homogenous, even though the story should combat both.