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Director Josephine Decker on adapting Jandy Nelson’s YA novel ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’

Jason Segel and Grace Kaufman in “The Sky Is Everywhere."Apple TV+.

“The Sky Is Everywhere” might hit differently in 2022.

The film — which author Jandy Nelson adapted from her 2010 young adult novel — was on its way to becoming a movie a decade ago. She’d written a script. There were producers in charge.

But like many film projects in development, it took a circuitous route, movement stalled, and the world changed a few times over before it was made.

Now that its release has arrived (“The Sky Is Everywhere” opened in theaters and began streaming on Apple TV+ Feb. 11), Nelson and director Josephine Decker acknowledge that the timing might be just right. The story is about a teen who learns to find joy and love after grief.


After the last two years, that means something new.

Josephine Decker.Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/file

“Grief — it can be abstract, especially for the audience we’re talking to,” said Decker, who helmed 2020′s “Shirley” with Elisabeth Moss, and 2018′s “Madeline’s Madeline.” “We’re talking to a young adult audience. . . . Even if they didn’t lose someone close to them during these last two years, [it’s] losing that time and losing the connections. ... When someone dies, of course, you never see them again. But when you’re like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen anyone for a year,’ that is also like a death of a friendship, even if it’s temporary. It does feel like a deep loss. I do feel like it’s a special time to make this movie.”

“The Sky Is Everywhere” follows Lennie, a clarinet-playing teen (Grace Kaufman) who should be prepping for her Juilliard audition but is suspended in grief after the sudden death of her sister. The story picks up in the aftermath of that loss, with Lennie, her grandmother, her uncle, and her late sister’s boyfriend trying to figure out what life looks life minus a person they loved.


Lennie writes notes and poems on leaves in the redwoods near her house. She has trouble pursuing her music now that her sister is gone, and also finds herself in a love triangle that rattles her. One suitor is a fellow high school musician, full of life and a love of Bach. The other is someone who should be off limits, which has Lennie questioning her own morality.

Cherry Jones, left, and Grace Kaufman in "The Sky Is Everywhere."Apple TV+

Decker was given the script by her agent, and said she knew it was something she could dive into. It took place in the redwood forest. It focused on a unique family — and the music.

“It hit basically every single thing I was interested in, which was, like, I’m obsessed with classical music. I grew up playing it. That was the way I expressed myself. I loved the unconventional family structure of it and that it was sort of like making a very functional family out of circumstances that were unusual. Then redwood forest. I mean, I just, every movie I make I’m like, ‘Please go hang out in the forest for a while.’ But also, you know, I’m a sucker for YA anything. Maybe it was that I had a really rough time in my middle school and teen years, and I never felt like I fit in. I’ve always heard that like everyone gets stuck at a certain age and their childhood and then maybe keep working that out. I really loved that this is a YA story, a young adult coming of age, with the usual, like, ‘I’m falling in love with someone; do they like me?’ But it’s wrapped around this very, very profound loss. ... And it’s full of imaginative go-into-the-mind magical realist scenes that then I could just play with and do my my special thing with.”


Decker brings Nelson’s script to life with characters floating in the air, flying music notes, and grief manifested as rain clouds and falling redwoods. Nelson calls her screenplay’s magical moments “Lennie scapes.”

“When you go back to the book,” Nelson said, “Lennie’s imagination — she’s so visual. Then having Josephine, who’s the most amazing at — I keep calling it visual rapture. She creates this visual rhapsody, and her doing the landscapes was just like a dream come true.”

Nelson and Decker are quick to acknowledge that while “The Sky Is Everywhere” is about a teen, it’s an adult story, too. Lennie’s grandmother, a character who’s lost a daughter and now a granddaughter, is played by Cherry Jones. Lennie’s eccentric uncle is Jason Segel.

Decker said the film has landed well with early audiences over 40, perhaps because they’ve experienced more loss and understand the complexities of relationships. She hopes young adults find something in the message, too.

Grace Kaufman in "The Sky Is Everywhere."Apple TV+

“And I’m so curious about people under that age, because it was definitely shot with them in mind and edited with them in mind, but also it’s very mature themes for a young audience.”


Nelson said Decker made something that’s for everyone, especially those who’ve been overwhelmed by a storm of feelings, like Lennie, and have tried to come through it with a new appreciation for life. It is a story about loss, but there’s humor, laughter, and everything at once.

“I think what also is really great about Josephine ... both of us share this wanting to write stories that are about everything. They’re about grief and joy and sorrow and love and everything all cramped together in a really small space,” she said. “I think she really did that in the movie.”

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at Meredith.Goldstein@Globe.com.