Josephine Decker’s films have always had so much incredible style embedded into them. Her latest film “The Sky Is Everywhere” is no exception. But the benefit of her incredible style is not to be had here, and the problem lies mostly in the script, based on the YA novel of the same name by Jandy Nelson who also pens this film’s pages. There is a lot in this film about the grief to be had with the loss of a loved one, and how it can spiral the lives of those left behind. Sadly, other films have tackled this subject and most of them do it so, so much better.
Taking place after the sudden death of her sister due to heart arrhythmia, Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman) is free-falling trying to find a way to continue on. Lennie attempts to keep going but already has a lot on her plate. She’s a talented first-chair clarinetist with prospects for Juilliard, and the loss of her sister brings her inability to continue playing music with a tremendous amount of grief on her shoulders. Her grandmother Fiona (Cherry Jones) and Uncle Big (Jason Segel) are here to pop their heads in every now and then but become the punching bag for Lennie at this difficult point in her life. She’s also trying to juggle the romantic feelings she has for her sister’s boyfriend Toby (Pico Alexander) and with the new kid in town Joe (Jacques Colimon), another talented musician at her school.
While on paper, a lot of that can sound very endearing and simple enough as a formula for a good narrative. And with Decker’s direction at hand too? It sounds too good to be true. But if there was ever a mismatch of talent and abilities, it’s “The Sky Is Everywhere”. The film has a good look to it, although suffers a very digital sheen, with only color and solid movement to redeem it. Decker’s style, as said is very prevalent but is really the only identifier of her hand in the film. With musical notes bouncing through the screen and knocking over students in the hall, scribbled on the screen text message effects between Lennie and her friend Sarah (Ji-young You), and the forest literally coming to life and crashing down in the Californian forests. The gathered effect is beautiful but doesn’t belong in a film of this low effort and quality. It turns from being a wonderful visual storytelling device to being something that can be viewed as trying too hard to stick out and be different.
The main problem lies not necessarily with the direction of Decker, but the writing of Nelson. Rarely offering anything to dig into and reflect upon, but being upfront and loud about the characters’ emotions and thoughts. There is little time given to show which leads to these actors having to tell everything instead. The side-plots with Lennie and her rivaling clarinetist, her late sister’s boyfriend confusing and wildly inappropriate romantic embraces, and reveals for just about everything tragic that you can make happen to your characters over-stuff the film and it is just too much. It’s laughable during large chunks, which should not bode well for a film that is nowhere near being intended as a comedy.
The film feels overall juvenile, amateur, and not very well thought out. The film maybe could have done a bit better had it gone through more minds in the adaptation process to work out all of these kinks, and find a different director to punish with having this in their repertoire.
“The Sky Is Everywhere” is currently playing in theaters and streaming on Apple TV+.