Film Review: BEFORE I FALL (USA 2016) ***

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before_i_fall.jpgDirector: Ry Russo-Young
Writer: Maria Maggenti (screenplay)
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Cynthy Wu

Review by Gilbert Seah

The teen best-seller BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, as well as its film adaptation, asks these questions: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

BEFORE I FALL is a teen take of MEAN GIRLS and GROUNDHOG DAY. The plot centres on Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch), a high school senior who finds that she may be living the last day of her life over and over until she gets it right. She gets up early morning on Cupid’s Day (St. Valentine’s Day) and dies in a car accident in the early hours of the next day after a house party. She wake up the same Friday morning again and again, like living in hell. She tries everything different – to be especially bad and then good, to see if she will not wake up in the same hell. She finally untangles the mystery surrounding her death, and the story is actually quite a good and unpredictable one at that.

Being a teen groundhog day movie, there are pluses and minuses. The minuses can be observed at the film’s start when director Russo-Young sets up the stage for the plot. The audience follows 4 really spoilt, annoying teen girls as they scream, sing and bully others including mistreating their family members. This route is unfortunately repeated again and again just as Sam relives the same day in her life. But the annoyance is corrected as Sam tries to better herself and thus her group as well.

Though advertised as a comedy, BEFORE I FALL takes a quick turn towards a serious tone. In fact, Russo-Young makes this a message film at the end. But it works, thanks to her directing skills. Russo-Young has made two other unreleased films before this one, with the last one being voted as the best unreleased film of the year.

Zoey Deutch plays well the bad and the good girl, trying two different characters to see how to get out of her repeated day. Elena Kampouris stands out as Juliet, the blond long-hair bullied girl called a psychopath by Sam’s group. Jennifer Beals (FLASHDANCE) still looks very pretty as Sam’s mother.

The dance anthem played at the house party is one of the best mixes I have heard this year. The anthem is repeated as Sam repeats this incident.

There is one goof on Sam’s cell phone – the date at which she finishes the day with. It shows Feb 13th when it should show the 15th, in the early morning after Cupid’s Day. I was confused when I saw the date, which I assume is a goof on the filmmakers’ part. One minor goof should not spoil the film, though one one expects continuity in a film to be important.

BEFORE I FALL turns out a much better film than it appears from the ads and trailer. For a teen film, it surprisingly has enough adult characters (Sam’s parents) and material to keep adults from being annoyed the hell out by the teen characters.



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