True love transcends the screen in ‘Everything You Ever Wanted’
By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist
The Young Actors Project (YAP) films are well known for focusing on teens and their phones, most notably in the popular The Girl Without a Phone series on YouTube. However, the BC acting group’s latest phone-centric film, Everything You Ever Wanted, explores a new angle of this obsession: Online celebrity.
The film stars social influencer Rhys Dawkins, who gained a fanbase from his role in YAP’s The Girl Without a Phone: A Snow White Story in 2017. In Everything You Ever Wanted, he plays a scripted version of himself, a YouTube star who has become an obsession for the lead character, Faith (Shea Smeltzer).
Written and directed by YAP founder Robert Randall, the 32-minute film follows Faith, an average high school girl who is addicted to her smartphone and constantly watches Rhys’s videos on it. It presents an honest look at how addictive smartphones can be, showing how scared Faith is to be apart from her phone for any extended period of time. Her addiction goes so far that it affects her performance at school, work, and home, to the point she skips class and gets fired from her job.
Everything You Ever Wanted takes the idea of young people’s connections to their phones one step further when Rhys inexplicably starts talking directly to Faith during his latest YouTube video. As if that isn’t strange enough, he magically leaves his video and appears in the real world to spend time with her.
Smeltzer and Dawkins play their characters well with great comedic timing and romantic chemistry. Smeltzer gives an excellent performance of a self-conscious teen girl with insecurities, nerdy interests, a best friend (Paige Lidiard), and a boyfriend (Draeven McGowan). She displays a wide range of emotions as her character goes through several major changes throughout the film. One moment Faith is giddy over a new Rhys video, then she’s panicking because she’s about to get in trouble for using her phone again, then she discovers that people she trusted have betrayed her, all of which Smeltzer plays convincingly.
Dawkins’s performance is a scripted version of his online persona, a cool guy with a sensitive side, which he is clearly comfortable playing. He strikes a balance between his usual persona and a nerdy, insecure personality that Faith draws out of him.
The YouTube videos his character makes are similar to the style and humour of Dawkins’s actual videos, which gives the film a real-world connection since Dawkins’s videos will continue to be made long after the film’s end credits roll.
Everything You Ever Wanted and other YAP films are available to view on Robert Randall’s YouTube channel.