Film critic Ameek Gilhotra softens the fall of this sometimes infuriating teen romance and instead marvels at its uniqueness in the wider genre
Before I Fall, is a 2017 film directed by Ry Russo-Young with screenplay written by Maria Maggenti, based on the 2010 novel of the same name. It reflects on the everyday life of Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch). She goes to an American high-school, and she seems to have everything. She is popular, beautiful and has a boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley). She is also friends with the ‘coolest’ girls, Lindsay Edgecombe (Halston Sage), Ally Harris (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi). While this seems pretty generic and the starting point of any American teen drama film, Before I Fall does wander away from it. Perhaps not drastically, but sufficiently enough to provide a new vantage to look at the plot. Samantha is involved in an accident, but she wakes to find that she was in a dream. This happens again, and she wakes up on the same day every day.
Throughout the film, we see Samantha’s emotions changing, from boredom and frustration, to anger and hopelessness. The audience’s patience is slightly tested as well, with some scenes repeating over, and over again. But, perhaps that is a cheap price to pay compared to the protagonist. The movie getting repetitive makes the audience feel like fast-forwarding sometimes, to get to a conclusion, or any sort of an ending. This comfort is not provided as soon as we would like and our desire for control loses consequence as Sam is forced to let go of all control herself.
While this may seem uncomfortable, or non-congenial, art engaging with Sisyphus normally does so. We are urged to think for ourselves instead of being provided with easy answers. Samantha explores life and death, what it means to be alive or dead, consequences of bullying, night-outs, hook-ups, relationships, family, friendships, and the audience is urged to do the same.
One of the strongest performances in the movie is a short one indeed, by Elena Kampouris. She plays Juliet Skyes, the ‘psycho.’ Juliet is bullied and depressed, alone and asked to go back to ‘the ward.’ Her personality darkens the plot, and adds interesting shades to it. Other actors have done a brilliant job of getting their characters to life. Deutch captures her character’s personality. She represents change, from a sometimes-seeming snob to a caring and kind individual. Sage also succeeds in capturing more than the quintessence of Lindsay’s personality allows. Lindsay is the queen bee, and the one who seems to have the most control. Kent McFuller (Logan Miller) is the ‘nerdy guy,’ and he is just what you will expect him to be.
Even though the repetitiveness of the movie has a good excuse to be so, it is perhaps not convincing enough for some. With better editing, it could have been managed better. The music in the film complements the scenes and the themes explored. However, the ‘loops’ created could have been cut short, and made more interesting, with tactics like playing the same tune again or flashes of some memorable lights, or episodes, instead of entire scenes. Its categorisation as ‘romance’ on Netflix can be a bit misleading, owing to its slightly dark portrayals. Therefore, it is not a lighthearted watch.
The colour palette of the movie however, enhances storytelling beautifully. Some cliché colour choices are flashed about. For instance, when Samantha is ‘good,’ she wears innocent pastel clothes, but when she does not care much, she is wearing darker colours. Her costumes change as well, and what Samantha wears reflects who she is going to be for the day. The ending of the movie is an interaction between Kingston and Skyes, and though slightly predictable, is directed and acted beautifully.
Before I Fall attempts to be interesting and unique are mostly successful, but can sometimes be repetitive and over-bearing. Its engagement with the myth of Sisyphus is remarkable, and on the whole, it is an interesting watch with excellent acting and good direction.
Before I Fall is available to watch on Netflix and DVD.
Images courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures. All rights reserved.
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