“Every Day,” a new film based on the acclaimed young adult novel by David Levithan, places an interesting twist on the cliche high school love story by interweaving romance with the supernatural. No, not vampires, but rather a transcendental being who involuntarily hops from one body to another every day. “Every Day” delves deep into the human condition and what it means to love a person inside and out.
The narrative centers around A (portrayed by several actors such as Lucas Jade Zumann and Jacob Batalon), a formless character who one day, by a stroke of luck, takes on the body of Justin (Justice Smith), a hard-headed jock. A bonds with Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon (Angourie Rice) after spending a special day with her at the beach. Unbeknownst to Rhiannon, it isn’t Justin she spends the day with. The following spiral of events details A’s struggle to be seen by Rhiannon for what (s)he truly is: a kind and sweet persona willing to do whatever it takes to keep her.
The PHOENIX spoke with Levithan about writing the novel and what the new film means to him.
“One day, I just woke up and wondered what it would be like to wake up in a different body every day.” Levithan said. “What would the preconceptions be? The biases?”
Levithan said he attempts to explore gender fluidity through his writing, a task that requires a unique approach that leaves some room for interpretation. Each person who reads the book will most likely leave with a different opinion on what A and Rhiannon’s adventure meant to them. But for Levithan, it remains the same.
“I wanted to express self-determination,” he said. “You don’t have to be defined by your body. You don’t have to fit a certain role.”
The obvious stray from the typical high school love story in “Every Day” was intentional, according to Levithan.
“I was bored of the typical high school love story. Love is complicated and messy difficult and I want to show the reality of it,” he said. “Being a gay author, there were not many narratives about gay love. I want to redefine who can be in love.”
This circles back to Levithan’s original intention of providing an abstract narrative which somehow transcends the physical. He wanted to write a story that would weigh heavily on the idea that love extends past the body, regardless of gender or appearance.
“Love isn’t just about affection and intimacy,” Levithan said. “It’s about loving the person that they are. Not just physical attraction but understanding and recognizing each other for who they are.”
This is exhibited in the movie through the recurring phrase from Rhiannon, “I see you.” Levithan said this subtle feature was inspired by fellow author Holly Black (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown).
“Holly once told me what the key to a love story was,” he said. “The most important phrase of a love story isn’t ‘I love you,’ the most important words are ‘I see you.’”
In addition to exploring new ways to express love, the idea behind “Every Day” isn’t limited to teenage readers. Since its release in 2012, “Every Day” has stayed put in the young adult section, inspiring adolescents and providing them with a wholly different romantic outlook. However, it’s yet to make its mark on the older generation.
“Plenty of adults read young adult books,” Levithan said in regard to “Every Day” being marketed as a young adult book. “Those who aren’t afraid to go back to their adolescence … I think this film will help us widen the audience.”
Levithan hopes the film will allow for an older audience to connect with the story, as well as the important lessons it holds.
Levithan said he was approached shortly after the release of his novel with a movie proposal. He said he declined several offers because movie studios refused to cast multiple actors to depict A, until film director Michael Sucsy said he liked Levithan’s idea.
“Sucsy eventually approached me and liked the inclusiveness of casting several A’s,” Leviathan said. “It was a process. He made a slideshow with all the actors that were going to play [A]. I was happy to let Sucsy take care of the whole thing. I’m a writer, not a filmmaker. I think the ten most important scenes made the cut. [The film] turned out to be exactly what I wanted.”
It’s not often a novel addresses such complicated topics as identity, love and the teenage mind in the way “Every Day” does. Using such an abstract character as A allows Levithan to approach the topic from a completely different angle. Sucsy’s film adaption of “Every Day” did just that. Slick and definite cuts allowed the audience to follow A throughout the journey across different bodies. Beautiful aerial shots designated a location or time change, solving the issue of navigating an intricate chronology.
The talented cast brought each and every character to life. While some dialogue exchanges were awkward, many scenes remained profound, adding to the personality of A’s hosts and the film’s teenage theme.
The most heartfelt scene takes place on a football field where Rhiannon and her friend Alexander (Owen Teague) — while inhabited by A — run around blowing bubbles and shooting water guns at each other, set to the song “Electric Love” by BØRNS. The scene captured everything about Rhiannon and A’s relationship, propelling the rest of the film forward and setting the stage for the difficult decisions that’ll need to be made.
A fascinating story brought to life by talented actors makes “Every Day” a great film for all ages, and one of the most anticipated films of this month.
“Every Day” hits theaters nationwide Feb. 23.