“Every Day” tells the story of A, an entity that wakes up in a different body every morning and has to live a day in that person’s literal and metaphorical shoes. After sixteen years of this, A meets a teenage girl named Rhiannon (Anghourie Rice, “The Nice Guys”) and begins to fall in love with her. This raises a lot of interesting questions that could lend themselves to any number of ingenious stories. How does A explain his predicament to Rhiannon, and how does she react? What are the moral consequences of taking over someone’s life for a day? If A has the power to make positive change, does he have the responsibility to do so? (I refer to A as a “he” because he is most often given masculine form.) What does a relationship between an ordinary teenage girl and an ethereal spirit look like, and what would their future together hold? The list goes on and on.
Instead of choosing one of these paths and giving it depth beyond your standard network sitcom episode, writer Jesse Andrews (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) — working from David Levithan’s book of the same name — chooses to do all of them, and in doing so ensures that “Every Day” is most memorable for its horrific pacing and lack of structure. Each of these questions and storylines, all of them capable of supporting the movie on their own, are given ten minutes of screen time apiece before being truncated in favor of the Next Big Problem. It barely qualifies as a “story.” It’s more a calculated series of scenes connected by characters alone and designed to pander to the modern teen demographic in the most self-important way possible.
On the one hand, there is an attempt to give voice to worthy themes like suicidal depression and the transgender experience. Unfortunately, their lack of definition leaves “Every Day” feeling like a cynical attempt to cash in on the goodwill of those who would actually like to see these themes broached to their fullest extent. It’s not clear whether this was done out of a fear of tackling the complexities of those subjects or of losing its audience’s attention, only that “Every Day” becomes a chore to sit through as a result. Nothing is given the time to develop enough to leave an impression beyond the end credits.
Those not brought into the theater by the smart premise and thematic possibilities were likely lured in by the promise of teen romance. While “Every Day” doesn’t fail as hard in this respect as something like “Twilight” — owing mostly to Rice’s superb performance as Rhiannon, a role that hopefully ensures the talented young actress’s career — it still does the film more harm than good from a narrative standpoint. It’s never clear why A fell for Rhiannon in the first place. The audience is meant to understand that A has been shifting in and out of bodies for about sixteen years, yet this time with this girl he was finally struck by love at first sight. Rhiannon isn’t a flat-out uninteresting or unlikeable character, but she is most remarkable for the crisis her relationship with A puts her in rather than anything she herself does.
The relationship itself is the way the script tries to get its multitude of messages across, so its mileage varies based on the revolving door of performers’ chemistry with Rice and the strength of the Message of the Minute. The one constant is that by the end of the film – which, true to form, is violently truncated – neither of the leads have changed. In this way, even the relationship itself, the cornerstone on which the entire plot stands, is robbed of its power. In its quest to be about everything, “Every Day” ends up being about nothing.