Film Review: Before I Fall (USA, 2017) fails to capture the depth of Lauren Oliver’s novel

Ry Russo-Young’s adaption of Lauren Oliver’s successful 2010 youth-adult novel Before I Fall tells the story of Samantha “Sammy” Kingston (Zoey Deutch), a young woman who has it all; the best group of friends, the perfect guy and what seems to be a very bright future. However, everything changes after the fateful night of February 12th, where Sam wakes up to no future at all. Trapped by some supernatural force, Sammy is to relive the same day over and over again. In endeavouring to escape from this trap, she begins to realise how her life was not as perfect as it seems. Leading to the discovery that this curse may be a lot more than just about making a difference to herself but also to those around her.

The film, perhaps unsurprisingly, tends to feel like a mash up between Groundhog Day and Mean Girls, with exaggerated teenage angst thrown in for good measure. The first act initially delivers a jarring voiceover by Sammy about how to appreciate each day, and then introduces Sammy’s friends in the film, led by Lindsay (Halston Sage) who are extremely popular in school and the bullies to those not at their level on the social hierarchy (see: Mean Girls). After very ugly events transpire at a senior party, the group drive away unknowing that at 12:09AM, an accident would occur, leaving Sammy with this curse of living the same day over again.

The second act is slightly messy and often can be quite jarring when it comes to Sammy’s character arc, which is an allegory for the stages of grief. The film chooses to focus on a few whole and partial segments of her reliving of each day, rather than important segments to build her character deeper. There is a point in the film where Sammy adopts the Groundhog Day mentality of ‘I can do anything I want and get away with it’ which proves to be rather necessary for the story, but does very little to make us care for the character’s predicament. Despite this, however, Deutch seems to fit into her character better as the film progresses and delivers a great performance, showing that she has brushed off her newcomer status to demonstrate the potential star she could become.

There is no apparent shortage of what possibilities may constitute a good deed could be for Sammy. Slowly she learns that, while she may be less superficial and than her friends, she’s got plenty of room for personal growth, too. There’s also a hint of A Christmas Carol to this film, which is, Sam will be reunited with her earlier selves through the form of friends and former crushes that she left behind in the pursuit of being the person we see now. This entire revelation helps her to recognise the kinder and the better aspects of her personality that she foolishly ditched.

The third act’s conclusion, despite being overly foreshadowed and short, gave a heart-warming message of what a gift it is to live and there is no better way to live than by doing the best you can do with each day. Because really when it comes down to it, there is only today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not a given. CARPE DIEM, people!

One the whole, the performances by the other supporting cast in this film are quite one-note and are difficult to relate to or care for. The exception to this being Kent (Logan Miller) a nerdy, polite classmate who also has secret affections for Sammy.

Before I Fall provides a fruitful outlook on life as we experience it each day, taking for granted what we could do if there was a second chance at it. However, with a melodramatic script and rushed character arc, the film loses its sting and the message is not as well received as it could have been. The film should be commended tough for its many moments that would motivate anyone to question what they have now and whether, beneath the surface, it has real depth.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Before I Fall is in cinemas today.

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