Filmmakers often have trouble giving the elevator pitch for their movie. Michael Sucsy, the openly gay director of the new release “Every Day,” doesn’t.
“It’s a thought-provoking and sophisticated romance about star-crossed lovers that happens to be set in a teenage world,” Sucsy says. “A girl named Rhiannon falls in love with a soul that changes bodies every day.”
The director has some advice for enjoying the movie.
“You don’t need to be a teenager to enjoy it. The characters in the movie have complex feelings about love and their identities and where they fit into the world. We’re all dealing with that in our lives, but those issues really come to an acute focus when you’re a teenager.”
He also has some timely guidance for talking about Rhiannon’s eventual love interest, a character referred to as A, who literally wakes up in a different body every day; the bodies are all roughly the same age and in the same geographic area, but include people of different races, classes, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities. A has no control over the process, but tries to learn from all of A’s encounters.
“I don’t use any pronouns for A,” Sucsy says. “I just say, ‘A went to A’s house.’ Or ‘A thinks that …’ It does get a little cumbersome.”
One of the directorial challenges Sucsy faced, especially since A is played by several different actors, was creating a consistent character throughout the movie.
In addition to his intuitive casting, part of Sucsy’s solution was more practical. Since there wasn’t enough time or money to have the actors meet each other before the shoot, he wrote them all a letter.
“I asked them to do two things,” he says. “One was to look at their hands when they woke up in the morning. I think that tells you a lot about yourself. The second was to look in a mirror or take a selfie and that would tell you even more bout the body you’re in.”
This ritual ended up becoming an important part of the movie.
“Every Day” is based on the popular young adult novel by David Levithan, adapted for the screen by children’s author Jesse Andrews. Sucsy credits Andrews with turning the book into an effective screenplay.
“The book is told from A’s point of view,” Sucsy says. “Jesse made the decision to tell the movie from Rhiannon’s point of view, which I think was a really smart choice. Having one actress to follow really guides you through the story.”
The director also asked his screenwriter to make some changes that more clearly put Rhiannon in control of the story. For example, in the movie, it’s Rhiannon who decides to play hooky so that she and A can spend the day at the beach. In addition to other scenes that break down social norms, Sucsy says, “that changes the story in ways that may be especially important for LGBT audiences, celebrating the experience of being seen for who you are and not being defined by the relationships you’re in.”
‘Every Day’ makes adept use of clever plot device
The premise of “Every Day,” opening in wide release, may sound a little complicated, but it’s all clearly explained in Jesse Andrew’s well-crafted screenplay, which adroitly uses comedy, drama and romance to tell an unusual and intriguing story of the relationship between Rhiannon, a Baltimore-based high school student, and A, an entity who wakes up every morning in a different body. This brings obvious challenges to the budding romance.
Newcomer Angourie Rice gives an assured performance as Rhiannon, creating a well-rounded teenage character who is in turn bright, sensitive, callous, resourceful and deeply caring. Veteran actress Maria Bello turns in a strong performance as Rhiannon’s mother; throughout the movie, the parents are presented with sympathy, a nice touch in a movie that focuses on the teenage characters.
The fantastic ensemble cast tackle the complex material with considerable flair. They create vivid characters, but somehow also make it very clear when A is temporarily inhabiting their body.
Sucsy, who is openly gay, directs with a wonderfully light touch. He moves the film forward with admirable efficiency and generous empathy. He is given robust support by cinematographer Rogier Stoffers and composer Elliott Wheeler.
“Every Day” is a thoughtful and heartwarming tale about love, empathy, caring, ingenuity and resilience. It celebrates the things that are too often used to demean and divide us (sex, gender, class, race, sexuality and gender identity) and rejoices in the common humanity that can bring us together. It’s a remarkable achievement and a perfect movie for these perilous times.