BEFORE I FALL, adapted from the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, is my first surprise of the Festival. Billed as MEAN GIRLS meets GROUNDHOG DAY I knew I had to give this one a try and I was definitely not disappointed. Yes, the comparison between those two movies is accurate and attention-grabbing, but BEFORE I FALL is a great movie in its own right, with an awesome soundtrack to boot. And it should also be mentioned that the team behind the film is made predominantly of women- the writer, director, author of the book, and lead actors of the film!
Sam (Zoey Deutch) and her three best girlfriends are hot, popular, and, well… bitchy. Their boyfriends are the hottest guys in school and they are invited to all of the best parties. But it becomes increasingly clear that the girls got to the top of the popularity pyramid off the backs of others. They aren’t afraid to bully their classmates, including people that used to be friends.
All of this changes on Valentine’s Day, when Sam and her friends attend a classmate’s house party. Sam is nervous because she is supposed to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Rob (:cough:d-bag:cough). But when the girls arrive at the party, things quickly get out of hand after Lindsay (Halston Sage), the ringleader of the group, confronts Juliet (Elena Kampouris), an “outcast” who is constantly bullied. Lindsay, Sam and the entire room of teenagers throw their drinks on Juliet, ultimately sending her running off into the woods. With the party disrupted, the girls begin the drive home, but at exactly 12:39, their car hits something and flips. Cut to white. Sam awakens back in her own bed, living the same day again. Is she dreaming? And how can she make the loop stop?
It should be no surprise that I am a sucker for YA films, but I don’t think BEFORE I FALL is made just for teens. The themes and lessons in this film are universal for kids, teens, and adults alike: treat people with respect; everyone has a story that shapes their situation. Of particular importance in this story is the focus on the effects of bullying. Most films about bullying have a hero and villain with a predictable arc of either redemption or revenge. But in BEFORE I FALL, the lines are more blurred. Instead of the bullies being one-note villains, the reasons behind their insecurities and lashing out are explored. And most importantly, at least for me, the film foregoes the cheesiness that usually accompanies films about bullying. There is clearly a message, but it is handled in a realistic, non eye-roll inducing way.
I’ve enjoyed Zoey Deutch in other projects, such as EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! and RINGER. But BEFORE I FALL is her coming out party. She is the anchor of the movie, appearing in literally every scene. We experience the film through Deutch’s character Sam. I liked that she wasn’t written as a perfect hero, but one with flaws. At the beginning of the film, Sam isn’t nice to her family and when her group of friends is bullying a classmate, she is right there along with them. I even found myself squirming in my seat and disappointed in her actions. Sam is written with multiple layers, and thanks to a phenomenal performance by Deutch, these are revealed throughout the film. We all know movies aren’t filmed linearly, and what Deutch and the rest of the cast were able to accomplish here, being emotionally aware and present for each new day in the time loop, is beyond admirable.
BEFORE I FALL is a realistic glimpse at the strength and complexity of female friendships, as well as the issues facing young women, including sexuality and peer pressure. Its powerful message about respecting others will certainly resonate with audiences, I know it did for me. BEFORE I FALL comes out in theaters on March 3!
My Review- B+