by Sophia Escudero
On Friday, Feb. 11, the A24 movie “The Sky is Everywhere” premiered on Apple TV+, accompanied by a red carpet event in Old Town Eureka. Filming took place locally on such locations as Moonstone Beach, Arcata High School, College of the Redwoods, and Sequoia Park, and over 500 locals were involved in the production, myself included.
The film itself explores the grief of Lennie Walker, a high school girl grappling with the sudden loss of her idolized older sister. Lennie, portrayed by actress Grace Kaufman, finds herself caught between a grief-forged connection with Toby, her late sister’s boyfriend (Pico Alexander), and Joe, an intriguing new music student fresh from a Parisian conservatory (Jacques Colimon), but more than that, she finds herself torn between mourning and moving on.
Director Josephine Decker depicts this world through a lens of magical realism. Lennie’s inner turmoil causes a storm around her only she can see, and the act of playing music literally leaves her walking on air. While these slightly surrealist aspects could serve to take one out of a film, here it serves to highlight Lennie’s turbulent emotions and sense of unreality. The visuals help set “The Sky is Everywhere” apart from many other YA dramas, while characterizing it with a certain twee sensibility and aesthetic.
The film’s minor characters round out the ensemble with heart and soul. Tyler Lofton’s nice guy Marcus, Ji-Young Yoo’s supportive bestie Sarah, and Jason Segal’s stoner uncle Big are all highlights, but Cherry Jones as Lennie’s grandmother Fiona is the standout star of the ensemble. Jones grounds the piece with her kind yet authoritative presence, quietly stealing the show without detracting from her costars. Though the film focuses on Lennie, it, unfortunately, does so at the cost of the people around her. We never get more than one or two shallow notes on many of the people populating this world, despite the actors turning in genuine performances with what they were given.
Still, nothing is quite like seeing my own hometown (and in one scene about four minutes in, my own face) filmed so beautifully and professionally on the silver screen. Humboldt is on full display here, with every scene reminding the local viewer of a place they know well. A jubilant dance scene appears before the Old Town Gazebo, a heartfelt apology takes place in the streets of Ferndale, and the Arcata Presbyterian Church hosts the funeral that sets so much into motion. The emotion of seeing one’s home in this way was one shared by Deputy Director of the Humboldt Film Commission Nate Adams, who I interviewed at the red carpet.
“It’s overwhelming, trying to focus on the movie and seeing the locations, and the people, and the art, and even my friend’s stickers made it into the movie,” Adams said. “It’s just overwhelming to see so much of Humboldt.”
Film Commissioner and HSU alum Cassandra Hesseltine teared up as I asked her about her experience helping create this production.
“I cried at the end of the movie yesterday when I watched it,” Hesseltine said. “Part of why I cried is because I love working in film. I wanted to work in film since I was five. Besides the content of the movie, and it is a beautiful movie, the reason why I cried was just to think about how all this happened in my community, that I helped it happen, and it was really, really special.”
“The Sky is Everywhere” is available for streaming at Apple TV+.