Josephine Decker has a small but admirable filmography distinguished by surreal imagery, brutally confrontational emotional intensity, and collaborators whose talents she displays front-and-center. Recent works like Madeline’s Madeline and Shirley told meaningful stories of fictional females navigating their lives with poignant uncertainties, progressing through hyper-stylized worlds that highlighted the beauty and fear of existence. Decker's new film The Sky Is Everywhere technically contains all these elements, so viewers who only need the bare minimum of the above requirements should be satisfied. Unfortunately, the movie does not utilize her talents well enough to overcome a lack of any other justification for its creation, at least beyond the average sad adolescent movie.
The Sky is Everywhere, centered on the grief-stricken family of a young woman gone too soon, focuses less on the tragedy itself than on how people deal with life after someone’s death. The story itself is sweet and moving, as the surviving sister (Grace Kaufman) tries to discover happiness without her closest companion’s physical presence, the weight of her absence at times nearly crushing the poor girl. Jandy Nelson writes the script from her own YA novel, which ultimately illuminates the glaring problem at the film’s core. In trying to keep as many plot points from the novel as possible, Nelson overloads her screenplay with contrasting elements in quick succession, forcing Decker to attempt to capture alternating moods rapidly before moving inordinately to the next moment.
Less Floating, More Grounding (Emotionally)
Too obstructed by the resulting tonal imbalance, The Sky Is Everywhere does not connect enough and thus rarely inspires emotional reactions from the audience. Even with all the pieces lined up, the film sadly falls to the same ranks as similarly disconnected features like If I Stay and Dear John. If you are looking for more behind Decker’s trademark visuals than the average film can offer, The Sky Is Everywhere will likely not have the foundation necessary to cut it.