Before I Fall is based on a Young Adults book written in 2010 by Lauren Oliver. It is also, quite frankly, not unlike a 100-minute ThoughtCatalog film. Audiences with a perchance for these two genres should find themselves suitably indulged, but others may find themselves polarised by the treatment.
The film starts with a philosophical narration, showing us vignettes of characters that we will get acquainted with. The voiceover comes from Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch), who is destined to experience a Groundhog Day occurrence that has her repeating her February 12 over and over again.
All goes well initially. Samantha wakes up and heads to her ride to school with her queen bee bff Lindsay (Halston Sage), and her two sidekicks Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu). They giggle, yelp, and bop to alternative youth pop in the car, before arriving at the school for Cupid’s Day.
This replacement to Valentine’s Day has students purchasing roses from a hall with personalised messages, before messengers deliver them to their candidates. Luckily for Samantha, she has the school’s hottest boy Rob (Kian Lawley) heart in her hands – with plans to offer up her virginity to him that same night.
We soon encounter other characters that cross paths with the motley – the butch Anna (Liv Hewson), the friend Kent with a crush (Logan Miller), and the outcast artist Juliet (Elena Kampouris). All of them go through some form of high-school teasing from the foursome, serving up their bullying with comments that will raise an eye-brow. It is the last character that suffers the most from the abuse, eventually becoming a pivotal character and message.
Later that night, after the fabulous four leaves a party, they encounter an accident – their cars flipping over and ends with – Samantha waking up to the same alarm and scenario as the day before. She is suitably disorientated, thinking that it’s the weekend, before she finds events unfolding exactly as they have “the day before”.
Hints about what might be happening are dropped. Her teacher speaks about Sisyphus in the classroom. Her friend Ally brings up the Chaos Theory. It takes Samantha a while to catch on that she might be in some sort of purgatory, but Ry Russo-Young directs the repeats with mindfulness – playing with different angles and character perspectives to keep the days engaging. What will Samantha do differently, you ask, as she makes slight shifts in her decisions in each loop, moving them from self-preservation to a more moralistic standpoint.
The lesson is obvious – though to see its development is quite engaging, with help from the talented Deutch, the gorgeous location of British Columbia and her mountains, as well as the steely and surrealistic treatment from cinematographer Michael Fimognari. It’s not only the result of repentance that we are after, but the process of the shifts too that makes for some interesting what-ifs – including an emo angsty clash in one repeat.
Although Before I Fall doesn’t reinvent the genre wheel, it does offer up some solid issues that face the youths of today, and satisfies with a deeper ending than I would have given this fable credit for.
This fable of living with purpose now comes packaged as a Young Adults film, and luckily for Ry, it doesn’t need a second chance to work.
First published: www.moviexclusive.com