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The Sky Is Everywhere is streaming on Apple TV+ now.

Eyebrows were raised when Apple TV announced that Josephine Decker’s fifth fiction feature, The Sky Is Everywhere, co-produced with A24, would be dropping straight on to their streaming service, forgoing the director’s traditional Sundance or Berlin festival premiere. Was something wrong with it? Well, yes and no – the ‘yes’ being that this is very much not a festival film, but a mainstream, young adult adaptation that sticks to its teen audience. (Jandy Nelson, who wrote the film’s screenplay, also authored the original novel.)

Lennie is a shy 17-year-old with musical aspirations to study at the Juilliard and become a clarinettist, and a profound love of Wuthering Heights. She’s also grieving the recent loss of her older sister Bailey as well as her mother, who had died some years before. Living with her grandmother ‘Gram’ and her uncle ‘Big’ in a beautiful woodland home with a thriving rose garden, Lennie strives to overcome the usual emotional tumult of adolescence, compounded as it has been by this two-fold grief, which has also left her unable to play her clarinet.

The Sky Is Everywhere (2022)
© Courtesy of Apple TV+

In step the inevitable love interests: first, Toby, Bailey’s former partner, who mopes around the house broodingly and whom Lennie repeatedly ‘accidentally’ kisses; second, Joe, a boyishly handsome classmate of Lennie’s, a talented trumpeter and also a fan of Emily Brontë’s novel. Complications emerge in Lennie and Joe’s budding romance when he witnesses one of those accidental kisses with Toby – in Gram’s romantic rose garden, no less – and much of the dramatic tension arises from Lennie’s attempts to win Joe back.

Fans of Decker’s previous films – from the ultra-low budget Butter on the Latch (2013) and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014) to 2020’s eccentric pseudo-biopic Shirley – may spot glimpses of the director’s trademark style, but the rigid plotting of The Sky Is Everywhere stymies the looseness and freedom to experiment that made those earlier titles so exhilarating. The by-numbers narrative is instead punctuated by whimsical set-pieces which accentuate moments of musical bliss: Lennie, seeing Joe playing his trumpet for the first time, is literally swept up in a whirlwind of musical notes; and when the two lie together among the roses to listen to Bach, their arms are covered with flowers that caress their two bodies in a way suggestive of a sexual frisson between the couple. It’s worth noting as well that Ashley Connor, DP and creative collaborator on Decker’s first three films, did not work on this production, and the absence of her eye for an unusual composition is keenly felt throughout.