One of the Sweetest and Simplest A24 Movies


A24 began as a film distribution company, immediately identifying itself with some of the more iconoclastic and critically acclaimed filmmakers (Sofie Coppola, Harmony Korine, Dennis Villeneuve) and films (Under the Skin, Locke) around. By 2016, they emerged as an important production studio in their own right; the epic success story of Best Picture-winner Moonlight was the first A24 movie to be produced. Since then, they’ve become one of the major players in the world of cinema, introducing some of the greatest contemporary directors and creating some of the best recent films.

Jandy Nelson might seem like an odd fit with the catalog of A24 movies, with their daring documentaries, art films, and elevated horror projects. Jandy Nelson is the young adult author behind the very popular I’ll Give You the Sun, which Warner Bros. has been allegedly developing for eight years. Now, her first novel, which came out four years before that acclaimed sophomore work, has been released on Apple TV + through A24, as one of the select few films to be created by the somewhat boutique production house (which will also release the highly- anticipated Everything Everywhere All at Once).

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The A24 Young Adult Romance


The young couple in love smile at each other face to face
A24 / Apple TV +

The Sky is Everywhere does not fit the immediate pattern of A24, and neither does it exactly fit within its director’s filmography. Josephine Decker is a brilliant artist who has been directing some of the strangest psychological thrillers of the past decade. From the indescribable Madeline’s Madeline to the downright experimental Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, Decker is a renegade who does not play by cinematic conventions. Hot off the success of her 2020 movie Shirley (with Elizabeth Moss as the Haunting of Hill House author Shirley Jackson), Decker was scooped up by A24 and paired with … a young adult romance novel?

It’s an utterly bizarre combination of talent, but it mostly works, mainly because it’s such a refreshing slap in the face to so many self-destructive and often misogynistic romance-movie tropes. Is it like revelatory as other A24 productionslike Ex Machina, Hereditary, Uncut Gemsor The Florida Project? Absolutely not, and it is extremely tempting to simply redirect a person to the many A24 movies which deserve their recognition or a vast amount more, but The Sky is Everywhere does warrant consideration as a young adult romance film. It’s simply a pleasant, kind, and whimsical movie that breezes by in the blink of an eye (like the many leaves which wander on wisps of air in the film), despite also grappling with intense themes of grief and teenage anxiety.

Related: These Are 5 Romance Movies For People Who Hate Romance Movies

The frequent shots of wind-worn, lingering leaves in the film has to do with its main character, Lennie Walker (originally set to be played by Selena Gomez, but handled very well by Grace Kaufman). Like the great ‘manic pixie dream girls‘of old, Lennie likes to write on leaves (and walls, and shoes, and just about everything else, but mostly organic material); the forest is littered with her natural notes. Except, those purposefully quirky and ‘adorkable’ characters which populated the 2000s with annoying giddiness (New Girl, Garden State, etc.), Lennie is a bit more realistic. She’s lost her sister and best friendBailey, to a sudden aneurysm, and with her went the joie de vivre of life and any will to play music, her former passion.

The Stages of Grief


Lennie and uncle Jason Segel against his truck
A24 / Apple TV +

Beginning the film with Lennie’s immense grief still oppressively haunting her months after Bailey’s death, as she attempts to return to school, is understandable thematically but a possible narrative misstep. Though there are (extremely brief) flashbacks, the audience has no real feel for who Bailey was and what their relationship was like; The Sky is Everywhere breaks the cardinal film rule (and presumably the book’s strength) of ‘show, don’t tell,’ by simply telling the viewer repeatedly how close the sisters were without ever really exploring that connection. An odd and, again, very brief flashback, where everyone in attendance at Bailey’s funeral laughs and claps, just feels hollow and empty without any emotional or psychological understanding. Perhaps like Creamone of the other great A24 movies, The Sky is Everywhere could’ve been bifurcated into two sections, one exploring Bailey while she was alive.


Nonetheless, it works thematically, though, because The Sky is Everywhere ultimately seems to be about breaking free of negativity and not letting trauma, tragedy, or grief be a person’s defining feature. Many people throughout the film comment on how different Lennie has become after her sister’s death. This is obviously understandable, and as one character (a delightful Jason Segel) even says, it’s something you never get over; “she’s going to die again and again every day for the rest of my life, isn’t she?” Lennie poignantly asks.

However, the grief and pain of this event has completely taken over Lennie to the point that she can not do what she loves (play music), and she begins developing emotional and sexual feelings for her dead sister’s fiancé, Toby. The movie expertly shows here how transference can workthis woman who lost her sister, and this man who lost his lover, come together because they seemingly the only people in the world who share the same pain and traumaand being together is the closest thing they have to be with Bailey again.


Related: These Are the Most Romantic French Movies Ever Made

Romance Movies and Toxic Relationships


The couple hug and he lifts her up against a colored background in The Sky is Everywhere
A24 / Apple TV +

The film knows that this is destructive, though. The greatest aspect of The Sky is Everywhere is its clever awareness of the often unhealthy patterns and tropes of romance novels and films. Lennie has self-admittedly read Wuthering heights 23 times, and has modeled her ideal relationship off of the characters of that romance, Heathcliffe and Cathythe Edward Cullen and Bella Swan of the 19th century. Wuthering heightslike Gone With the Wind, Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray, and countless other romances about dark, brutal, and mysterious men, have somewhat distorted romantic relations into a toxic and often chauvinistic mess. Feminist critic Samantha Ellis penned “How Heathcliffe Ruined My Love Life” for The Telegraph, brilliantly dissecting the problems with this ‘tall dark and handsome’ trope. She writes:

He had it all: a dark past (found starving on the streets of Liverpool); a wild soul (even his name says how much he loves the moors); and of course, he was tall, dark and smouldering.

Heathcliff also loves big. His love is not mealy-mouthed, it’s never careful; it’s operatic, it’s lunatic, it’s vast. Wuthering heights makes you hope that Heathcliff and Cathy’s love could survive if everyone else was not so small-minded and pernickety. I wanted a love like that. I wanted a love so intense it could send me into a brain fever or make the man who loved me gnash his teeth and dash his head against a tree till he bled. Dig up my grave and be so blinded by love that he’d swear that, even after seven years in the ground, my face was still my face, uncorrupted.

The Sky is Everywhere is brilliant when it deconstructs these ruinous clichés and tropes of the romance genre. In one scene, for instance, Lennie tells Toby, “It’s possible you’ve taken the whole strong, silent type thing a little far.” It’s also very emotionally mature for what is essentially a teenage romance movie. It transcends these destructive tropes, recognizes the brokenness and mistakes in each character, and tries to find a way forward for everyone. Perhaps it ends up succumbing to the saccharine sappiness of other romantic clichés in the process (as it details the budding love between Lennie and another boy), but most of those won’t ruin a person’s love life, to use Ellis’ language.

Decker Directing Romance Movies


The couple in a big field of flowers, overhead shot
A24 / Apple TV +

Lennie’s narration does have the same sort of feel as The Notebook, Twilightand other young adult romances, but The Sky is Everywhere actually makes it poetic and feel like the novel from which it is based. There are truly beautiful lines interspersed throughout the film, such as, “It’s such a colossal effort not to be shattered by what was lost, but to be enchanted by what was,” and, “Grief is a house where no one can protect you , where the younger sister will grow older than the older one, where the doors no longer let you in or out. “

The poetic narrative compliments Josephine Decker’s direction, as well, which retains a bit of the disarming experimentation of her previous work but softens it considerably. Drastic color correction and contrast, sudden choreographed dance numbers, silly fantasy sequences, ridiculous sound effects, and made-to-look-artificial effects burst from the screen with whimsy. This might look like Michel Gondry directed The Fault in Our Starsor even better, like Spike Jonze made Pushing Daisies; the point being, it certainly draws countless comparisons to their work, along with the tragically underrated Paper Heart with Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera.

Decker’s direction may be derivative of those fanciful, magical realist directors, but it works regardless, giving the film a charm and kindness that perfectly compliments its journey out of the destructive, toxic darkness of bad romance and into the twee, silly light of something a little healthier.

Somehow, between other A24 movies like their graphically sexual movie Red rocket and their sure-to-be brutal Ti West horror flick X, the studio decided to create the playful, cute little film The Sky is Everywhere. It may not be a masterpiece, but it certainly stands out.



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