BEFORE I FALL
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti based on the eponymous novel by Lauren Oliver
Runtime: 99 mins
Australian release date: 16 March 2017
Previewed at: Roadshow Theatrette, Pyrmont, Sydney on 28 February 2017
Based on a similar plot device to Harold Ramis’ 1993 cult film Groundhog Day, Ry Russo-Young gives the tale a contemporary twist in her film Before I Fall; the difference is that this version covers teen angst rather than mid-life crisis and that may make an older audience avoid it. This just goes to show that you should never judge a film by its target demographic because, although it focuses on adolescents, the film succeeds in covering issues that are relevant to many.
The story centres on a group of high school girlfriends who are preparing for a ‘rage’ where one of them plans to lose her virginity - hey, it’s Valentine’s Day after all! Each one is disengaged from the real world, totally bound up by their group dynamic, and showing little compassion for others on the outside, which presents a dilemma for the audience. It’s hard to engage with the little brats, caught up as they are in their hormonal domain. However, Russo-Young makes it work through the redemption of her main character, Sam (Zoey Deutsch), who begins to realise that February 12th is repeating on her, literally. She spends a fraught week trying to untangle the mystery and endeavouring to make each iteration of the day more meaningful by improving the lot of those around her. One of her main concerns is the fact that she and her gal pals are guilty of bullying another student, Juliet (Elena Kampouris), who’s picked on because she’s ‘different’ and who emerges as crucial to the events.
Set in a wintery environment in the Pacific North-West, Before I Fall will appeal to the niche market it is geared for but could be enjoyed by a broader demographic as well. If not original at least it’s thought-provoking. Deutch gives a fine performance as the millennial who changes from selfish teen to a young woman with principles over the course of a day… well, a number of days. That’s pretty good going for a film that’s only 98 minutes long yet covers a lifetime.