Before I Fall
Open Road Films/Awesomeness Films
Directed by Ry-Russo Young
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Elena Kampouris, Logan Miller, Cynthy Wu, Medalion Rahimi
Rated: PG-13 (for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens)
Release Date: March 3, 2017
I’ve seen far too many film adaptations of young adult literature that do anything but honor the original source material. They deviate from the plot, adding massive amounts of exposition to try and stretch out to two hours, and then throw in a love interest with two stars that have absolutely no chemistry. With all this being said, Before I Fall is a breath of fresh air in the genre. While the story is one that will be rather familiar with viewers, its modern take and exuberant performances (particularly that of lead actress Zoey Deutch) will resonate with viewers.
Deutch plays high-school senior Samantha Kingston, a bright-eyed girl who we meet as she wakes up at 6:50 AM on a cloudy, dismal Friday morning in her small town. She’s picked up by her best friends, Lindsay (portrayed by Halston Sage), Allie (Cynthy), and Elody (Medalion Rahimi). They proceed to gush and gossip about the day’s upcoming festivities, with this day being particularly special. It’s “Cupid Day”, a pseudo-Valentine’s Day-type event that takes place in their school, where testosterone-filled teenage boys try their luck at romance (or whatever it’s considered in high school) by sending roses to the girls. Samantha hopes that she’ll receive a rose from her fling, Rob (played by Kian Lawley), in anticipation that it’ll lead to her hearing those magical three words later that night and give themselves to each other.
Rob’s rose and accompanying message to Samantha seems less than enthusiastic, whereas the out of focus boy in the back of the classroom, Ken McFuller (Logan Miller), gives her a Shakespearean-esque note with a rose that’s different from all the others. She doesn’t even bat an eye in his direction.
Later that evening, at the high school party where everything’s supposed to change for the better (surprise: Rob is drunk and throwing up in the other room), Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris) enters the room. It’s odd that Juliet is in attendance; she looks unkempt and distraught, like she’s been fighting an internal battle for days. The girls make note of her entrance and a scene breaks out. Curse words are thrown, drinks are tossed. While Samantha does participate, something’s…off. You can tell that deep down, it’s not really in her style to be insulting.
The drive home from the party begins, when BANG! The car flips. Screams are heard. A loud crash fills the air. Suddenly…it’s 6:50 AM again. On the same Friday. Sam is freaked out. As the day progresses, as things seem to look all too familiar, she realizes the inevitable truth: she’s living the same day, stuck in a limbo of some kind (think Groundhog Day, but darker). No matter what she tries to do to affect the outcome of that Friday, she always wakes up on the same day, with the external world and its participants repeating themselves in the same fashion.
There are undeniably times when the character of Samantha Kingston is downright unlikeable, but it’s not because of her attitude; it’s because we know that her character is a better person. Deutch’s acting as Samantha is remarkable, and one of the strongest roles in her career thus far. Given that we’ve recently seen her in a number of comedies (Dirty Grandpa, Why Him?), it’s nice to see her showcase her abilities in a drama. By the third act of the film, you can't help but fall in love with Deutch's character.
By the end of the film, we, along with the characters in Before I Fall, receive a valuable lesson about life and its preciousness. Every moment should be cherished and never taken for granted. This is not a cheery film, if you are looking for a romantic teen comedy. The dark color tones throughout the film can be seen in the trailer, and the trailer alone should give you enough of an indication of what you’re getting into. But oddly enough, as I walked out of the theater and into the sunlight radiating over San Francisco, I felt a little bit more appreciative of the world around me. Coincidence? I don’t think so.