By Jack Dignan
Before I Fall is the latest in a long line of melodramatic, out to make you cry adaptations of best selling, young adult-oriented novels. Simultaneously to this, it’s also the latest in a long line of Groundhog Day-esque movies, taking that film’s premise and molding it into a new, fresh idea for younger audiences. The film, believe it or not, is interesting, and not always necessarily because of what’s on screen. I went into this movie preparing for the worst, expecting to come out in flustered anger and disapproval. Alas, I did not. Before I Fall is the much needed rejuvenation of young adult adaptations, necessary after a countless number of flops and mishaps.
Samantha (Zoey Deutch) was once a social outcast, bullied and friendless day after day. Thankfully for her, things are different now. When we first catch up with her, Samantha has found herself in the cool group, so to speak. She’s popular, and with that popularity comes collateral damage, siding with her friends, especially best friend and leader of the pack Lindsey (Halston Sage), in the bullying of other students. She’s not a good person. But soon everything changes. After getting into a fight at a party with a misunderstood school freak, Juliet (Elena Kampouris), Samantha and friends drive off, only to find themselves face to face with a truck, their car taking quite a hit.
Unsure of how she got there, and quite frankly surprised to be in one piece, Samantha wakes up in bed. Expecting it to be a Saturday, it soon becomes apparent that that isn’t the case. It’s Friday. Again. For reasons unknown, and reasons unexplained, Samantha is stuck in a loop, reliving the same day over and over, always reaching the same conclusion. Lindsey dies. Samantha dies. Her friends die. Repeat. I imagine it’s all sounding fairly familiar at this point in time, and that’s because it is. In her never-ending struggle to find a way to make things right and move on to the next day, what we get is an existential teen drama that’s not all as bad as you’d think it to be.
This film, in all its young adult glory, is one big walking cliché. Guessing the plot isn’t too difficult of a task. Character arcs can play out exactly as expected and the ultimate conclusion can be predicted from the trailer. The whole film feels like one big fluff, light on plot and even lighter on originality. Yet, somehow, it works. It should be bad, it has every right to be, but Before I Fall has a lot to say. Granted, you’ve seen and heard pretty much all of it before, yet the themes of the plot remain relevant, the subject matter dealing with teen suicide, the negativity of bullying and the overall bullshit and unimportant problems that come with being a high school student.
High school can be a nightmare, and I’m glad to have gotten out of it when I did. It affects each and every one of us in a different way, and Before I Fall takes on the challenge of dealing with that topic, showcasing the confronting side effects of being a student. For some, it’s not all fun and games, and the situations presented in the film, save for the whole repeating day scenario, are real life problems. It’s not the first time these problems are presented on screen, and I’m sure it won’t be the last either, but it’s a welcomed inclusion, especially for a film with mass teen appeal. Opening against Logan may do good things for this movie, as the MA15+ rated superhero drama restricts a younger audience, so Before I Fall will more than likely be their film of choice.
When coming out of it earlier this week, I wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t until later, once I had sunk in what I’d seen and dwelled on the thematics, that I decided I enjoyed it, however this isn’t a film I see myself ever coming back to. Even when learning to overcome their inherent bitchiness and condescending ways, the characters still feel manipulative and unlikeable. Their story is entertaining, the message one that will strike a nerve with teens, but my god, these characters were a nightmare to deal with, disrespectful to others and to their family, even on a good day. I suppose this is the point, but the point is made through sacrificing the ability to connect with the characters and their problems.
Since the comparison is inevitable, let’s take a look at Groundhog Day. The 1993 comedic masterpiece deals with a disrespectful weather man trapped in the worst day of his life. Like with Before I Fall, the lead character is unlikeable, but unlike Before I Fall, he’s sympathetic and real. He’s a genuine character who becomes increasingly relatable as the film goes on. While Samantha in Before I Fall is slowly learning the wrongs of her ways, she doesn’t become any more relatable or sympathetic. Watching her act the way she does is frustrating more than anything else, especially halfway through the film where her day is dictated by her increased anger, becoming someone worse than who she already was.
Before I Fall is not a film that’s going to appeal to all, it almost didn’t with me either, but for its target audience, this movie is going to be a hit. It’s a film that knows what it’s trying to be, taking its familiar concept and handful of clichés and doing its best to create an enjoyable, if not extremely forgettable teen tearjerker that’s not nearly as bad as it should have been.
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