Everything Now review | An intense, affecting sixth form drama

sophie wilde as mia in everything now
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Sex Education, Heartstopper and mental health problems combine in an emotive teen series. Here’s our Everything Now review.

Episodes watched: 4 of 8

What do non-UK viewers think of secondary education in this country? Over in the US, the high school movie has become a beloved genre in its own right. But while the now ubiquitous perception of banks of lockers swimming with jocks, red cups and prom dates might sanitise how un-groovy school life probably is (we wouldn’t know, we’ve never been), we get the sense that the world shown off in, say, Booksmart or Superbad isn’t a million miles away from high school in the real world.

The same can’t really be said for the UK. For a long time, popular culture would have all of us growing up in some hybrid of Hogwarts and a 1980s mining town.

All that changed with Sex Education, however. Set in an apparently parallel universe where all secondary schools have things like ‘personal lockers’ and ‘swimming pools’, Moordale was, to all intents and purposes, an American high school with Curly Wurlies in the vending machines.

Everything Now, Ripley Parker’s new Netflix series filling the streamer’s Sex Education­-sized void, to a certain extent carries on that tradition. Everyone lives in very nice, ludicrously spacious houses, there’s not a school uniform in sight, and all the concrete ceilings stay exactly where they’re supposed to (i.e., not falling to bits).

But where Everything Now offers a slightly sanitised, American-influenced vision of UK school life, that’s not really the focus. Instead, much of the story revolves around Mia (Sophie Wilde), a 16-year-old girl recovering from a hospital stay suffering with anorexia nervosa. Discovering that her friends have all been living exciting, sex and rock n’ roll-fuelled lives while she was away and terrified of missing out, she writes up a “fuck it bucket” list – a series of high school activities she wants to try, well, now.

As it turns out, Everything Now’s largely unrecognisable portrait of UK high school life provides a brilliant canvas for an authentically troubling look at growing up with an eating disorder. For Mia, what’s worst about her illness isn’t usually the barrage of symptoms thrown her way – though the show’s depiction of eating a jacket potato as an insurmountable mountain is effectively nausea-inducing.

Instead she has, like most teenagers, a crippling fear of missing out. Her stay at the hospital cut months out of her school life. To her and her friends, it feels like years. Rumours swirl around the school, and her classmates’ attempts to be “extra welcoming” (as a hilariously over-helpful English teacher puts it) only cement Mia’s idea that she’ll forever be known as “the anorexic girl”.

Read more: Sex Education season 4 review: a crowded but satisfactory climax

Expertly navigating the minefield that is accurate mental health depiction on TV, Everything Now proves brilliantly empathetic largely by ignoring the aspects of a condition which similar dramas tend to focus on. Rooting Mia’s struggle not so much with the illness itself, but how it exacerbates the usual problems in a high school drama, means the show rarely feels condescending.

Sure, it does err on the melodramatic at times, and this is where the Americanised roots are most jarringly felt. While bits of the show are gross-out funny, it’s no The Inbetweeners (probably the most authentic depiction of a UK sixth form on TV, but that’s a point for another day), and there’s a sense sometimes that the show is a bit too sincere to really let its emotional kicks land.

For the most part, though, Everything Now brilliantly fills the Sex Education hole left by the end of the most recent season with something unexpectedly different. With a stand-out, ‘desperately in-need of a hug’ performance from Sophie Wilde (her second excellent Mia performance of the year, actually, after Talk To Me) and one of the most accurate depictions of anxiety and eating disorders currently on screen, the show’s first half proves to be an intense, but rigorously entertaining, triumph.

Everything Now is streaming on Netflix now.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, information and resources are available at www.wannatalkaboutit.com.

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