In Josephine Decker’s glorious childhood drama “The Sky Is Everywhere,” Lennie (Grace Kaufman) is a high school clarinetist who is relearning to embrace the joys of life after the sudden loss of her big sister, Bailey (Havana Rose Liu).
Lennie begins the story tormented and withdrawn. She sympathizes with Bailey’s taciturn friend, Toby (Pico Alexander), and the couple find solace in shared suffering. But then Lennie meets Joe (Jacques Colimon), a seductive band member who is eager to do business with her. The young men seem to point out possible paths for Lennie: Toby offers comfort and a secure connection to Bailey; Joe means new ecstasy, a continuation of the torment.
“The Sky Is Everywhere” (on Apple TV+) is based on a novel by Jandy Nelson, who also wrote the screenplay, and she portrays this adolescent story with rare respect. Too many works aimed at younger age groups ooze sentimentality or nod in a condescending tone. Here we receive in figurative voice-over full of imagery Lennie’s boundless fantasy and world view.
Those meditations are fertile ground for Decker, an empath with a divine gift for using chaotic images to evoke emotion. As she did in “Madeline’s Madeline” and “Shirley,” Decker unleashes a slipstream of female passion, anger, and distress in this film.
But don’t confuse this with a stuffy teen weepy-toned gray. Instead, Decker is honed with a tactile aesthetic. Cut-out rain clouds float in the sky. A teen’s accidental erection evokes a cartoonish “boing.” And in the most enchanting scene, Lennie and Joe listen to Bach as they lie amid a rose garden embodied by dancers adorned with blossoms. The viewer enjoys this moment, and so does Lennie, a ray of raw feeling that anchors a radiant fusion of music and image.
The sky is everywhere
Rated PG-13 for language and raging hormones. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters and on Apple TV+.