In Josephine Decker’s glorious young adult drama “The Sky Is Everywhere,” Lennie (Grace Kaufman) is a high school clarinetist who relearns to embrace life’s joys after the sudden loss of her big sister, Bailey (Havana Rose Liu).
Lennie begins the story anguished and withdrawn. She commiserates with Bailey’s taciturn boyfriend, Toby (Pico Alexander), and the pair find comfort in shared suffering. But then Lennie meets Joe (Jacques Colimon), an alluring bandmate eager to engage her. The young men seem to signify possible paths for Lennie: Toby offers solace and a safe link to Bailey; Joe means new ecstasies, a moving on from the torment.
“The Sky Is Everywhere” (on Apple TV+) is based on a novel by Jandy Nelson, who also wrote the screenplay, and she renders this adolescent story with rare respect. Too many works aimed at younger age groups ooze with sentimentality or buckle under a condescending tone. Here, in figurative voice-over full of imagery, we receive Lennie’s unbridled imagination and worldview.
Those meditations are fertile ground for Decker, an empath with a divine gift for using chaotic visuals to conjure emotion. As she did in “Madeline’s Madeline” and “Shirley,” Decker unlooses in this movie a slipstream of female passion, rage and distress.
But don’t confuse this with an oppressive teen weepy tinged gray. Instead, Decker gets crafty with a tactile aesthetic. Cutout rain clouds hover in the sky. A teen’s inadvertent erection cues 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 festooned in blossoms. The viewer revels in this moment, and so does Lennie, a ray of raw feeling anchoring a radiant melding 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+.