Josephine Decker’s The Sky is Everywhere is an adaptation of Jandy Nelson’s novel of the same name, about a young teenager and musical prodigy, Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman), grieving the sudden death of her sister, Bailey (Havana Rose Liu). Because of her overwhelming grief of losing her best friend and sister, even losing her ability to play music and giving up her seat as the first chair. When a new student, Joe Fontaine (Jacques Colimon), enters Lennie’s life, he wants to make new music with her, and their relationship blossoms. But when Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby (Pico Alexander), starts to complicate Lennie’s relationship with Joe, she deals with her conflicted heart, the pain of suffering a sudden loss and her first love.
The Sky is Everywhere is a soul-stirring movie about how young teenagers deal with losing a loved one. The pressures of school and the expectations for young students to achieve something without processing it properly. The movie is shown through Lennie’s perspective, and she explains how losing her sister has changed her life forever. While she mourns Bailey, the rest of the school has moved on from it. Even after Bailey’s death, her music teacher expects her to rehearse and audition for Julliard. The school where both she and Bailey aim to go together.
Lennie has a great support system around her. Her best friend, Sarah (Yoo Ji-young), Big and Gram, are always by her side to be there for her. She lives with her uncle Big (Jason Siegel) and Gram (Cherry Jones), who helps them to process her sister’s death. The film brings them together as they all share the same experience of losing someone years ago, Lennie’s mother. Gram insists that she pack up Bailey’s clothes and put them in the basement. Lennie, on the other hand, wants to hold on to them. Lennie, a grieving sister, explains to Gram that Bailey will come back and everything must stay the same. People grieve differently, and Lennie copes by locking herself inside Bailey’s closet and burying herself on top of her clothes. She wants to keep the memories that she shared with Bailey and her fragrance around her all the time.
Dealing with grief alone can be tricky unless it is shared with someone who has gone through the same experience. Lennie and Toby meet up and share their feelings on Bailey’s death, but they don’t expect anything romantic to come out of it. Instead, they watch old videos of Bailey and talk about the trips that they had gone on together when she was alive. However, when Toby kisses Lennie, it confuses her. Riddled with the guilt of taking her sister’s boyfriend from her, she begins to avoid Toby.
As the audience, it is pretty difficult to watch Toby and Lennie navigate their feelings on what they did—watching Lennie, who is confused because she has feelings for someone else. Toby is dealing with the loss too, and being unable to tell certain things about his future with Bailey almost ruins him. However, the kiss was in poor taste, and it had a lot of consequences later on in the movie.
When Lennie loses the ability to create music, Joe comes in to help her. But it wasn’t easy for Lennie to talk to anyone at first. Even though Lennie shares her feelings about Bailey’s death, she still feels lonely. But when Joe shares that he had gone through a similar experience, they bond over it. Later, he brings her guitar and plays a song for her, which inspires her to get back to music. They listen to Bach and other instrumentals together in Gram’s beautiful rose gardens. When Joe and Lennie listen to music together, they magically teleport to another world as the roses and plants around them come alive. She feels like they are floating in the air, and playing her flute with Joemakese her feel alive again.
While there are beautiful parts of grieving, some ugly parts too. Grief can make people push their loved ones away because being left alone is easier for them. The Sky is Everywhere also shows us the nasty side of loss. Forcing her family and friend away and acting out however she feels like it. Gram tries to help Lennie as much as possible, but she doesn’t allow her grandmother in. Perhaps she feels suffocated, or maybe she centres herself too much in her life to wonder about Big and Gram’s feelings. But Lennie feels pressure from Gram to move on when she’s not ready to, and that sets her off. The audience watching this understands that grieving someone they love must be taken on their own time, day by day. It’s not something that can be done hastily.
The Sky is Everywhere is a bit of everything that is a coming-of-age story about a young teenager who deals with death could be. Lennie navigates her life the best way she can as an awkward and insecure teenager falling in love for the first time while moving on from her sister’s sudden death. “Grief is forever, isn’t it? It’s not going to go away. She’s gonna die again and again for the rest of my life,” Lennie tells Gram as they sit on the front porch. The Sky is Everywhere shows us the good and bad parts of grief and love. With its charming use of stop-motion animation to express Lennie’s emotions when she’s happy, sad or excited. Lennie loses something that completely understands every part of her, and later, gains someone equal to her.
Nuha Hassan is a film and TV writer and reviewer, based in the Maldives. She is a Staff Writer at Film Cred, Off Colour, and Flip Screen. Apart from writing about film, she is a Video Editor at Dead Central. She studied Master of Media at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her love for film started with David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Her favourite comfort film is When Harry Met Sally.