Film Review: ‘Before I Fall’

Become who you are.

After premiering at Sundance and receiving a warm welcome by critics and audiences alike, it’s necessary to understand why exactly indie film director Ry Russo-Young’s adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s best selling novel Before I Fall has moved us. The film borrows and steals tropes from others before it and yet for all its clichés, it doesn’t become one.

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) wakes up one morning only to have it end in a tragic accident forcing her to relive the last day of her life over and over again. At first bewildered then sickened by a reality that feels utterly unreal and unchangeable, she battles anger, frustration and hopelessness to arrive at clarity. While the mechanisms of her trap—a Groundhog Day-esque time loop—are left unexplained, it’s importance is peripheral to what the film endeavours to accomplish. To create a touching, poignant film about young women treating each other with understanding instead of ignorance. The time loop, however, does a disservice to the richly imagined characters of Lauren Oliver’s novel. Its insistence on Sam’s never-ending last day makes the audience more of a witness to Sam’s growth than part of her emotional and mental transformation. Still, Zoey Deutch’s performance as Sam adds so much life, vivacity and depth with her revealing face that it makes up for this slight.

The film explores the relevance of kindness, compassion and understanding through a character who is meant to be unlikeable, who has redeeming qualities that are lost in the fog of female adosdence. It’s easy to dismiss characters like her when they’re introduced in film and TV because they’re part of a catered-to niche audience. Both Sam and the film are for young girls, for teenagers, for the audiences of Mean Girls and If I Stay. With all the right ingredients (high school boys, sex, feeling wanted, adored, loved, parties, bullying, on-the-nose moralism of sacrifice and love) it’s easy to brush Before I Fall aside as something important only to a select viewer. But it’s not. Whoever you are, this film will touch you. The film pulls you into a real world with a very unreal premise that forces its main character to consider her life. This consideration is universal; this push into self-reflection and doubt, the sudden urge to become self-aware of your own flaws is so deeply felt that if that isn’t universally human then nothing is.

Grade: B

Before I Fall opens in theaters March 3rd.

We screened the film at Landmark Sunshine at a premiere hosted by Marie Claire.

Cast: Jennifer Beals, Diego Boneta, Zoey Deutch, Liv Hewson, Elena Kampouris, Kian Lawley, Logan Miller Medalion Rahimi, Halston Sage, Cynthy Wu

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Writer: Maria Maggenti

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Running time: 93 minutes

Rating: PG-13.

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