Before I Fall (2017)
It's a little on the nose that you have seen much of "Before I Fall" before. A hybrid of "Groundhog Day" and [insert young adult drama here], the Ry Russo-Young directed film effectively treads familiar territory thanks largely to a terrific performance from Zoey Deutch, who appears to be on her way to stardom.
Based on the novel of the same name, "Before I Fall" does a handful of things very well. It doesn't pull punches when evaluating its protagonist, Sam, who finds herself reliving her last day on Earth again and again. It's a dark film, and it works in part thanks to Deutch's performance.
Sam is not a good person. She and her group of friends are bullies. They're popular, mean and antagonize innocent people for no reason. A reason wouldn't make it better, but I respect the film for making it clear from the get go the heroes go out of their way to be terrible to classmates for no reason at all. That matters.
It takes Sam some time to realize this and "Before I Fall" makes her feel this pain. Deutch and Russo-Young deserve credit for making her anguish.
This happens while highlighting Sam's loneliness given her never-ending-day and the natural loneliness that comes when you've outgrown your friends. That helps bring about closure to Sam as a character, and the film, too, while keeping the tint of sadness that comes with any death. There are light moments in "Before I Fall," but it's not exactly a popcorn flick.
Then there are the flaws. The young adult tropes are out in full force: The lynchpin of the "big night" is Sam's first time having sex. She has a life-changing encounter with "a nice guy" she's been mean to. There's a vastly overqualified and very attractive 27-year-old high school english teacher.
You get the idea.
Those aren't reason enough to write off what makes "Before I Fall" a good movie. It certainly isn't enough to ignore the great performance turned in by Deutch, who I hope to see in more varied roles in the future. This is a film with a great message that at times gets caught up in the tropes of the genre. In the whole scheme of things, that's not so great a sin.