Grace Kaufman was a senior in high school when she began auditioning for the lead role in “The Sky Is Everywhere.” It was February 2020, shortly before the world shut down in response to the pandemic. “When everything felt so uncertain, and I was experiencing a lot of isolation and confusion,” she says. “And grieving the loss of things that were taken away in an instant.”
Kaufman booked the role, but the rest of her senior year looked very different than she — and everyone else — had imagined. There was no prom, no proper graduation send-off. Although she stresses that she feels fortunate that she hasn’t lost anybody close to her, the collective sense of loss resonated with her as she went into filming in fall of 2020.
Kaufman stars in the film as Lennie, a teenager grieving the sudden death of her older sister while navigating two conflicting romantic relationships. The film is set in the lush landscape of Northern California and incorporates magical realism to heighten Lennie’s coming-of-age story.
“I resonated with Lennie because I understood that feeling. It was a universal feeling. Everybody was dealing with loss and trying to find their way through a confusing time, a really scary time,” says the 19-year-old actress. “I think everybody’s adjusted a bit more to this new way of life, this new normal, and that’s what Lennie goes through in the movie — having to deal with so much pain, but also coming to terms with life going on. And accepting that there are still beautiful things to experience while you’re alive — falling in love and growing up and connecting with family,” she adds. “Getting to be a part of a film that celebrates life and also delves so deeply into what it is to grieve was an absolute honor.”
The film was adapted from the YA novel “The Sky Is Everywhere” by Jandy Nelson, who also penned the script. Josephine Decker, who has garnered acclaim for past projects including “Madeline’s Madeline” and “Shirley,” directed the film.
“I love her style,” says Kaufman of Decker, who she wasn’t able to meet in person until they began filming. “She has a certain realness and rawness that she brings to the table. This element of the female gaze is so important in storytelling, especially nowadays. And she does it so flawlessly.”
The film was produced by A24 and Apple TV+, and was released simultaneously in select theaters and on the streaming platform. Kaufman first watched the finished movie with her family — both of her parents are actors — an experience which she describes as formative. “They were just so over the moon with it, and then I was crying and they were crying,” she says. “It was a beautiful moment that I will remember and cherish forever.”
The upbeat young actress also stars in the Rebecca Hall-led psychological thriller “Resurrection,” which shot last summer and premiered at Sundance in January. The film was acquired by IFC Films and Shudder, and marks a darker role for Kaufman, who stars as the main character’s daughter, Abby.
“Abby is pretty fiercely independent, and she’s a bit of a gamer dork, which was also fun to play,” says Kaufman. “And getting to explore the mother-daughter relationship that she has with her mom was also very interesting,” she adds. “Getting to work with Rebecca so closely made the experience incredible. She’s just a wonderful actress; somebody who I very much admire.”
While the beginning of 2022 has kept Kaufman busy with press, the actress is also well-equipped to keep herself occupied until the next film set comes calling.
“I’m very fortunate to have a lot of friends who are in film school right now who are also very supportive of my endeavors, and vice versa,” she says, adding that she’d like to write and produce her own projects. “I’m very excited to see what the next couple of months have in store.”