'After Everything': Film Review

Feels vividly authentic.

Two young people enter into a serious relationship while one of them is suffering from cancer in Hannah Marks and Joey Power's romantic drama.

Depicting the highs and lows of a relationship marked by a possibly terminal cancer diagnosis, Hannah Marks and Joey Power's romantic drama somehow manages to avoid clichés and oversentimentality. After Everything deals with two 23-year-olds, but it will likely ring true even for viewers whose twenties are a distant memory. Featuring terrific performances by its young leads, the film marks an auspicious feature debut for its writer-directors.

The story begins with Elliot (Jeremy Allen White, Shameless) experiencing a strange pain in his groin during a one-night stand. He discovers that he's suffering from a form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma, which has resulted in a tumor on his pelvic bone. Around the same time, while waiting for a subway train he encounters Mia (Maika Monroe, It Follows), a frequent customer at the sandwich shop where he works, and impulsively asks her out.

The two are soon involved in a passionate relationship, with Mia being lovingly supportive of her new boyfriend as he's undergoing physically and emotionally debilitating chemotherapy treatments. Rather than drive them apart, Elliot's illness seems to deepen their relationship, and he impulsively proposes marriage. For a while, the aftermath of the "shotgun wedding," as Mia describes it to Elliot's concerned parents, proves happy. But even as Elliot is given a clean bill of health after successful surgery, the two young people begin to realize that their relationship is falling apart.

While the pic's tone is generally serious, it never becomes maudlin despite the tear-jerking subject matter. It also includes some genuinely funny episodes, such as a fantasy sequence involving Elliot's efforts to become aroused while attempting to bank his sperm should his cancer prevent him from siring children; the couple giddily cavorting after ingesting ecstasy (but not before Googling "What happens when you take MDMA and have cancer?"); and their attempts to recruit a female participant to fulfill Elliot's dream of having a threesome.  

The Generation Z demographic will certainly relate to such things as the film's depiction of modern dating rituals like Tinder; unfulfilling jobs; roommates who spend their time bingeing on true-crime documentaries; and Elliot's dreams of designing a new app. What impresses, though, is how effectively After Everything taps into universal themes involving the difficulties of sustaining relationships. And the way in which we can sabotage our future in an instant is perfectly encapsulated in an angry encounter between Elliot and Mia in which he blurts out something that he'll never be able to take back.  

The filmmakers have attracted a talented supporting ensemble for this indie effort, including Gina Gershon and Dean Winters as Mia's mother and her new boyfriend, and Marisa Tomei as Elliot's attentive oncologist. But it's the hugely appealing White and Monroe who authoritatively carry the film, mining the material for all its pathos and humor and displaying the sort of chemistry more often aspired to than achieved in romantic films. They make it look easy, as do the talented filmmakers.

Production companies: Yale Productions, WYSJ Media, The Exchange
Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment
Cast: Jeremy Allen White, Maika Monroe, DeRon Horton, Sasha Lane, Olivia Luccardi, Gina Gershon, Marisa Tomei, Dean Winters
Directors-screenwriters: Hannah Marks, Joey Powers
Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Michael J. Rothstein, Sean Glover
Executive producers: Stephen Braun, Ash Christian, Brian M. Cohen, Brian O'Shea, Roz Rothstein, Caddy Vanasirkul, Wei Wang
Director of photography: Sandra Valde-Hansen
Production designer: Laura Miller
Editor: Gordan Grinberg
Composer: Xander Singh
Costume designer: Matthew Simonelli
Casting: Barbara Fiorentino, Brandon Henry Rodriguez

94 minutes