Before I Fall Movie Review
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Before I Fall is more than the sum of its parts: a coming of age teen drama and reimagined Groundhog Day (1993). It’s a thoughtful, heartbreaking tale of discovering too late that you’re a crappy human being, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Sam (Zoey Deutch) is reliving the same nightmarish day, over and over – except that’s not how it starts. It’s Valentines Day and she has a special evening planned. Everything goes pretty much as normal – she’s a senior in high school, has a close cadre, a not-so secret admirer, and a boyfriend. She’s as happy as a teenager can be on her last day on earth – right up until she dies. It isn’t until she begins that same day over and over that she sees how problematic her entire life has been.
Sam is not a bad person, per se. That honor falls to Lindsay (Halston Sage), her bff – a cold sarcastic girl who’s destined to be miserable with whomever she spends the rest her of life with. While Lindsay taunts a school outcast, she tosses around the label “sociopath” and let’s face it bullies absolutely project their flaws. Lindsay only cares about herself and her self-image. Hurting anyone she considers beneath her never crosses her mind. Sam sees this and does nothing about the taunting or bullying, and that’s makes her just as bad.
Juliette (Elena Kampouris), the object of Lindsay’s wrath, calls Sam “pathetic” and Sam is hurt because she doesn’t understand why. It takes her, literally, the entire movie to figure it out. Sam let’s things happen and as long as they don’t affect her directly, they can’t be bad. It’s a striking metaphor for every single one of us. We see terrible things, sometimes watching them go down right in front of us – but we don’t step in to speak up or stop it. Juliette is right – it’s pathetic.
What I didn’t like (and it’s a super small minor quibble) was how it turned into a “remember me fondly” piece about dying the good death and all the right people crying over a soft rendition of any number of Sarah McLaughlin tunes. The lives she changed on her final day took a backseat to how she wanted to be thought of – a person who did this incredibly selfless thing. Maybe that’s what being the hero in your own story is all about. I’m not big on the Carrot/stick mentality of living. There’s no karmic cookie at the end.
What I did like was there’s no withered gypsy or coin-operated Zoltar fortelling tragic events, nothing magical or ominous to hint that something is amiss. Sam was a teenager who made some everyday questionable life choices and she died. It just happens, and that’s why death sucks. We don’t know when it’s coming, so living every day without having to turn back and apologize is its own reward.
Based on the wildly popular YA novel book by Lauren Oliver, the movie may take some shortcuts in character development, but in the end it’s about two people and how their lives are drastically different because of who they know and how.
Obvious comparisons will be made to Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray, through no fault of his own, has to live the same day over an over again to learn how to be a decent human being. Before I Fall is learning too late you never did enough.
I won’t admit I got a little teary in the end. I simply won’t.