The idea of gender and sexuality being non-issues when it comes to love and connection is taken to a heartwarming and otherworldly level in the new movie Every Day, out this Friday.
Based on the 2013 YA best-seller of the same name by gay author David Levithan, the film sees 16-year-old Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), fall for “A,” a consciousness that inhabits a different body every 24 hours. Those bodies include that of Rhiannon’s self-centered boyfriend, Justin (Justice Smith); lanky Jesus freak Nathan (Lucas Jacob Zumann); husky Asian-American James (Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Jacob Batalon); and genderqueer student Vic (Ian Alexander).
Director Michael Sucsy (The Vow, HBO’s Grey Gardens) and screenwriter Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) stay true to the novel, which Levithan says is a queer metaphor “on so many different levels.”
“A central theme of the story is that you should get to have your own identity and not be defined by the way people see you or think you should be,” Levithan (below with Rice) tells NewNowNext.
Some scenes (and bodies) from the book didn’t make it to the script, Levithan admits, including two boyfriends who go to Annapolis for a Pride parade. “It was sweet, fun, and closest to life for me, but nothing major for the plot happens there.”
But the hosts Levithan felt were most critical to Every Day were included, including that of Vic, played by trans actor Ian Alexander (The OA). “It was vital that the movie have a transgender actor play that character,” Levithan stresses. “Jesse and Michael did a great job. Vic’s chapter in the book is not an important one and comes very late, but rather than jettison the character they moved them up to make sure Vic was there and represented.”
After getting over her disbelief about A jumping bodies, Rhiannon rolls with the various individuals that A takes up residence in and even finds herself kissing another cisgender girl. Through Rhiannon’s growing attraction to A, despite their various external bodies, Every Day makes a profound statement about the power of desire to trump the physical.
“Certainly we have proclivities and inclinations, but I don’t know those have to be definitions,” says Levithan. “The book and the movie examine the question of what we’re attracted to—the outside, inside or some proportion of both. Personally, I think it’s the last one, but what the book and movie hopefully say is you get to decide what that is and what influences you.”
“I often talk about the challenge of what happens when your boyfriend grows a really bad mustache,” he explains. “On one level it’s very superficial but at the same time does alter the way you see him. Eventually, if you love him, maybe you will not come to love the mustache but accept the person you love wants to have it. I’ve seen couples who have thrived when one person has transitioned genders. I’ve seen people remake their bodies to fit more who they are. There can be challenges to that in relationships, but also strength that can be found in navigating that.”
While last year’s Another Day, retold the story from Rhiannon’s point of view, this October will see the release of a proper sequel, Someday.
“If the first two books are about identity and love, the third is about the choices you make,” reveals Levithan. “Whereas A tries to do the right thing and be responsible when in peoples’ bodies, there’s another character who is opportunistic and can do whatever they want. They also wake up in a random body every day, but push back more often and when they get a body they feel can give them advantages, they can stay in it and squat longer and wreak havoc. It’s about the showdown between the two and making the moral choice versus the self-interest choice.”
It was just five years ago that Every Day was published, but Levithan admits notions of gender fluidity, as well as being agender, have quickly become part of the cultural conversation since then.
“When I would tour with the book, it would be fascinating to talk to high-school students about why would you have to be defined by one gender,” he says. “Over time, more and more of the kids I talk to understood exactly what [that means], and already have that vocabulary going into the book. The book taps into all those things, and Jesse and Michael ran with it for the movie.”
The premise has spurred fascinating discussions, he says, in some expected quarters.
“I have gone to extraordinarily progressive high schools in Massachusetts, where we talked about gender queerness and such, but I’ve also gone to religious colleges and had those conversations there, too. They are open to it and having the paranormal conceit really opens the door to having conversations about identity and race that would be harder to do with a work of realistic fiction.”
Every Day opens in theaters February 23.