Even though I’m a movie reviewer I don’t get to absolutely every movie out there and sometimes I find myself attending showings of under-the-radar films simply for my own entertainment. When I walked in to a showing of “Before I Fall” I didn’t expect much. I was bored, I had already seen most of the movies at the theater and I wanted to try something new. To my surprise the next 99 minutes were composed of a rather deep and eye opening examination of personal sacrifice and decision-making in one of the most unapologetic young adult films to hit the big screen in some time.
“Before I Fall” is based on the 2010 young adult novel of the same name by Lauren Oliver and follows a young high school senior who, after a tragic accident, continues to relive the last day of her life over and over again until she gets it right. The film stars Zoey Deutch (“Beautiful Creatures”, “Bad Grandpa”) as Samantha Kingston who awakens on what would become her final day as a frustrated, self entitled young woman who rejects her family, joins her friends in putting down others in school, and takes pride in her “perfect” and popular boyfriend while celebrating Valentines Day. When an accident occurs late in the night, resulting in the deaths of her and her friends, she awakens to find she is repeating the same day and as she puts the pieces together she begins to unravel her purpose all the while reshaping herself into a better person as she discovers all the things she has taken for granted.
To many this type of plot probably sounds familiar. That’s because it is very similar to the plot device in the comedy “Groundhog Day” and in many ways the film borrows heavily from the themes and lessons learned in that film. However, as cliché as this may seem to be, “Before I Fall” manages to take the concept known as the “Groundhog Day phenomenon” and turn it into something much deeper and targets a younger audience than the Bill Murray classic. So while it feels like we’ve seen this before we haven’t seen it quite like this.
“Groundhog Day” is not the only film that “Before I Fall” borrows from. There are flavors of “Mean Girls” and other teen-centric classics mixed in as Samantha begins to rethink her place on the high school social ladder and find new respect for those she once put down and loses respect for those she called her friends. However, while the film borrows heavily from its predecessors it does a fantastic job establishing it’s own story and making old feel rather new again, not an easy thing to do in this modern Hollywood so bent on tired clichés and formulaic approaches to storytelling.
It contains some sub par acting and at times can be a bit drawn out, but every actor owns their role especially Deutch who comes from acting royalty and effectively carries the entire film on her shoulders. What’s impressive is that “Before I Fall” doesn’t falter in its ironically liner approach to story telling despite retelling the same day’s events over and over again. At times it can be a bit heavy-handed, but “Before I Fall” has something to say and it wastes no effort in getting the point across as we watch an egotistic and self-centered teenager learn to value everything her life has given her even knowing at the end of the day she will perish over and over and over again and we even get a glimpse at some of the “stages of grief” themes that were massively relevant to the book. It’s a transformation that just might inspire viewers to take a closer look at their own lives before it’s too late.
While not a work of art, “Before I Fall” is charming, thought provoking, and enlightening in its own special ways. If dares to ask “if you had one day left on earth what would you do?” and for everything “Groundhog Day” did for the older audience and comedy, “Before I Fall” offers the same deep messages to the younger crowd and in many ways teaches them lessons they really do need to understand about how their actions and attitude can impact those around them. It’s a story worth telling and it’s one this reviewer was surprisingly delighted to experience on the big screen.