Some may argue that the melodrama genre has largely faded from the public eye, only relegated to passive viewings of terribly cliched Lifetime Original Movies. However, Josephine Decker’s The Sky Is Everywhere suggests that melodrama might have been absorbed into young adult romance films.
The actual plot of Decker’s latest is one straight out of a Douglas Sirk (a torchbearer for melodrama in cinema) film. The Sky Is Everywhere follows Lennie (Grace Kaufman), a high school clarinet prodigy who struggles to maintain her sense of self after her sister Bailey (Havana Rose Liu) suddenly perishes. Lennie has to choose to either live in her sister’s shadow or forge her own path forward.
Decker truly evokes the melodramatic concept of reality uninhibited throughout The Sky Is Everywhere. The shallow focused, vivid cinematography makes the diegetic world leap off the screen like that of a daydream. This is especially the case with Lennie’s frequent and highly stylized dream sequences, where the internal turmoil of each character is brought to the surface with immediacy.
However, with each revelation about Bailey’s secretive past that comes to light, the film further ventures into the melodramatic to emphasize the overwhelming nature of grief. Unfortunately, this is where The Sky Is Everywhere‘s greatest issues come to the forefront. Maintaining a tonal balance (especially in a teenaged melodrama) between optimism and nihilism is an immensely challenging task, and Jandy Nelson’s screenplay falls too deep into depressive sentiments that it comes across at comical at times.
It doesn’t help that the entire cast of The Sky Is Everywhere feels out of place. The chemistry between Lennie and her potential love interests, Toby (Pico Alexander) & Joe (Jacques Colimon), are nonexistent and indistinguishable from any other YA romance couple from the last decade. The performances across the board are concurrently wooden and overacted. Not even the fabulous Cherry Jones as Lennie’s Gram could save this acting travesty.
While The Sky Is Everywhere is cinematically enthralling on a technical level, the camera has a greater depth of emotion than its misguided cast and shallow screenplay. Maybe melodramas are best left to the past after all…
The Silver Lining
Josephine Decker’s inventive directorial style shines like a shimmering star in The Sky Is Everywhere. Every shot that Decker and cinematographer Ava Berkofsky capture is beautifully blocked and subliminally reiterates the themes and motifs present in the screenplay. While The Sky Is Everywhere‘s actual narrative brings nothing new to the YA romance, Decker & Berkofsky’s work behind the camera injects a uniqueness that compels you to watch Lennie’s journey to its half-hearted conclusion.
The Sky Is Everywhere releases on Apple TV+ tomorrow, February 11th.