Everything Now is a coming-of-age story with several twists and a lot of angst, all of which it carries with more intelligence and style than your average teen drama. Sixteen-year-old Mia Polanco (Sophie Wilde, star of recent cult horror film Talk to Me) has just been released from a private eating disorder treatment centre, where she has been an inpatient. She doesn’t so much leave as burst out of its doors. She has a lot to catch up on, but when she suggests going to the cinema or bowling, her group of friends has to inform her that life has changed. Sex, booze and parties are the new bowling. “How can I have missed so much in seven months?” Mia asks, before establishing a “Fuck It Bucket List” of activities, from going on a date and having her first kiss to breaking the law, clubbing and beyond.
Mia’s anorexia is the main character here. Everything Now is responsible about it, but not toothless. Her illness recedes into the background then roars back. It is not rational or linear. One episode, later in the series, assumes the perspective of her brother, Alex, which emphasises just how consuming her experience has been for everyone who loves her. Netflix faced criticism for its 2017 film To the Bone, which also told the story of a young woman in treatment for an eating disorder, but with considerably less tact and nuance than this. Everything Now is sometimes sad and often stressful – not least because teenagers really would save themselves a lot of problems if they had a simple conversation about what they were thinking – but it is also funny, and defiantly blunt.
Mia’s doctor is played by Stephen Fry, who, in the wake of Heartstopper, may be carving out a new career for himself as a queer teen TV staple. For us older millennials (this is clearly aimed at teen viewers, but that hasn’t dented the popularity of Sex Education or Heartstopper, so let’s assume its audience will be broader than that) and those of us who went to school in the dying days of Section 28, this is a whole new world. The characters have same-sex relationships which exist beyond them claiming any sort of identity. There is a steady undercurrent of queerness that is never discussed as queerness, merely understood and absorbed wordlessly by supportive parents, friends, teammates and siblings. Perhaps this will be entirely un-noteworthy to younger viewers, and perhaps that is a good thing.
Mia lives in north London, in a huge house. Her mother, Viv, (Vivienne Acheampong) is a semi-famous interior designer who struggles to connect with her daughter. There is a tendency for teen dramas to exist in a brightly coloured, gently fantastical world and Everything Now inhabits it, too. This is firmly middle- to upper-class land. One of its favourite locations is a health food shop in Kentish Town, though a couple of the kids do at least work there. There is a wider point, though, which is that Mia’s health care is private and expensive. The show has the sense to acknowledge this.
Mia’s Fuck It Bucket List squashes her experience of adolescence into a small window of time, which lends this a real bounce and energy. She has to catch up on what she missed, and mostly she does this through parties, which range from perilous to lovely to disastrous. One of the best things about the show is its embracing of awkwardness. Mia is relentlessly awkward, particularly if a situation demands she shouldn’t be. She says the wrong thing, at the wrong time, fixates on the wrong person, lashes out at people who don’t deserve it, and makes a mess. “Just be yourself,” one of her friends tells her. “But myself got me hospitalised for several months,” she says, drily.
But what is teenage life, if not utterly embarrassing? Mia’s illness dominates, but this is also about her finding who she is beyond that, and redefining herself outside it. These kids are simultaneously wise, at times able to recognise the deeper truths behind Mia’s self-centred behaviour, and also absolutely terrible to each other. They have the language for big conversations, but not quite the maturity. As the season goes on, they begin to find it, but the path to enlightenment is filled with half-empty bottles of vodka and misguided snogs. Everything Now is very well acted, beautifully shot, witty and tart, but for all of its posturing, it is also very sweet, and, in the end, rather sensible. Though I’m sure its teenagers would hate that.