Wyatt Muma ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Film Editor
In recent years, there’s been a slow revival of great high school films. Most likely a direct result of Twilight’s blockbuster success, movies like Edge of Seventeen and The Fault in Our Stars have given audiences a reason to care about adolescence again. With this newfound interest in the genre, studios have mining classics of the Young Adult genre in order to find a property with built-in fans. Before I Fall, while an adequate adaption, is better recognized for its inventiveness and merits as a stand-alone property.
The film follows Samantha Kingston, one of the most popular girls in her school. Her life is everything a young woman should want- sporty boyfriend, popular friends, and what seems like an enchanted Pacific Northwest lifestyle. Zoey Deutch luckily makes Samantha stand out despite her relatively bland set-up. In fact, Samantha is the only character who seems to have any depth at all. Her friends and family are minor players in the grand scheme of Samantha’s struggle towards self-discovery. However, the film makes a point of diversifying the high school around her. It looks more like a real high school than many other white-washed adaptions of young adult literature. Not only that, but these high schoolers look real. Sure, they’re Hollywood starlets you can find hanging out with Taylor Swift on the weekends, but they also have a very distinct I’m-figuring-myself-out look about them.
Unlike most other films of this genre, the story follows Samantha’s death and what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, after. She gets caught in a Groundhog Day-esque never-ending cycle of living the same day over and over. Faced with having to relive the same events, she learns about herself and the world around her. It all sounds very Aesop’s Fables but there is something electric about what happens on screen. Seeing Samantha crash and burn while discovering things about herself and those around her is really delightful. Deutch is like a young Julia Roberts– completely endearing and exciting. You fully believe in this character and seeing her get to the bottom of why she’s trapped in this one day.
While a very enjoyable film, there’s a sense of a loss in the translation from page to screen. While getting inside Samantha’s head while reading was exciting and enlightening, this adaption is forced to streamline the events because there is not much first-person narration. On its own, it’s a great film and possibly in the future, a B-movie cult classic. If nothing else, it’s worth noting that it’s one of those rare studio releases that stars a woman, directed by a woman, with a screenplay written by a woman. Here’s to hoping more, better, young adult adaptions are on the horizon.
Overall Grade: B
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