OPEN ROAD FILMS (2017)

 

Director: Ry Russo-Young

 

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

Maybe for you, there’s a tomorrow…

 

Based on Lauren Oliver’s 2010 novel, Before I Fall follows Samantha (Deutch) as she relives the same day over and over again after a late night car crash that seemingly kills her and her three friends. Think Groundhog Day in high school – though I’m not sold that Bill Murray would use Snapchat. Samantha has it all made – three close friends, a privileged family, handsome (douchey) boyfriend and a pretty bright future ahead.

 

But not everything works out like it does in dreams.

February 12th, Cupid’s Day, where roses are dished out to lucky recipients and a goodtime feel hangs in the air (mostly anyway). It’s also the day Samantha plans to do the horizontal shuffle with her boyfriend Rob (Lawley) and her friends make sure she doesn’t forget it. After curtly ignoring her family, she is picked up by BFF’s Lindsay (Sage), Ally (Wu) and Elody (Rahimi) and the journey to school begins, complete with the freshest beats, Snapchat talk and pouts galore (have I said that all in the correct and hip fashion?). The girls are naturally showered with roses throughout the day, Samantha receiving hers from Rob and also one from Kent (Miller), a dude in her class who is infatuated with her – he’s the type to sniff the air as you pass. Also, the type to chase you down the hall, which he does to invite Samantha to his party that night, but Samantha is too cool to accept (but she goes anyway). She is also too groovy to be nice to people as she and her clique mock the school outsider Juliet (Kampouris) during lunch break. Not cool.

 

Later that night as the party is roaring into life, after cuddling and rubbing each other on a couch, the fearsome foursome’s love-in is interrupted when Juliet arrives to the party – well this is a serious affront to the girls who bully her for simply turning up, Juliet’s attempt to fight back is met with greater insults and beer hurled all over her and she runs out as quickly as she came in. Congratulating each other for a night of successes and #selfies, the night comes to a sharp end as an unseen object causes the girls car to smash off road and the world goes black. That is until Samantha awakes to find she’s back in bed, its Cupid’s Day again, and everything is repeating itself verbatim.

 

Firstly, this movie was produced by a company called Awesomeness Films, which is in itself AWESOME.

 

Waking up and living the same day repeatedly would be a drag, and Samantha has to figure out how to stop this endless cycle. The particulars as to how she should do this isn’t explicitly told, but if you follow the story it becomes apparent and fairly obvious too. Essentially what the movie is telling us is simple: live for today, clean your act up, chase the right paths and be kind because you may not get a second chance. After a lacklustre first act, the movie fires into life halfway in as Samantha begins to unravel the puzzle whilst deciding to change her personality each day. Before this, the movie is more a tween buddy film written by someone too old to be writing authentic dialogue about Snapchat and boys.  Director Ry Russo-Young did not like the characters after reading the script and initially it isn’t hard to see why – man, are they tedious. Conceited, self-centred, arrogant and frankly annoying, Before I Fall could’ve been a car crash before I finished, however as the movie unfurls the girls attitudes are played for specific reasons, therefore making up for the initial impressions.

 

Zoey Deutch performs commendably as the movie rolls on and she is given greater meat to chew on. She portrays her role with a soft emotion and a purity as her character arc takes shape. Halston Sage and Logan Miller are really the other two characters that have any real development, though nothing spectacular. Sage begins as the hyper-conceited blonde bombshell and ends the movie only slightly amended, whereas Miller has extra lines to say with added urgency.

 

The point is to show that by realising the errors of your ways, you can change yourself and also positively affect the people around you, and this is where the movie is strongest. As Samantha realises that her friends aren’t as virtuous as she thought she takes matters into her own hands in order for them to see how their actions affect others. She also makes extra effort to appreciate her family and especially her little sister, taking time to ensure she has some special days. The douchey boyfriend Rob (who in real life is a ‘YouTuber’…yep, that’s a thing) doesn’t escape either and you can probably guess what happens there. The movie holds no real surprises but is enjoyable to watch when the message hits home. It looks great also, a moody blue filter covers the mountainous Pacific Northwest location that seems perennially wet and contrasts the movies sombre tone well.

 

Before I Fall is a strange movie, whilst watching it I wasn’t sure if I actually liked it but as it rolled on I found myself intrigued and believe it to be a solid, if predictable, movie. Some extra character insight into the conclusion would have strengthened the movie for me and not left it (unintentionally) undercooked. Deutch is great in her role and the message is vital, not just for teenagers either.

 

Go out there and live life to the full.

August 15th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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