It’s a thought that we’ve all had – if you could relive the day over, what would you do differently? What changes would you make, for yourself and for others? “Before I Fall” plays with this idea of time, decision and action. It follows the story of Sam (Zoey Deutch), one of the most enviable girls in high school, who dies suddenly in a car accident only to wake the next morning, living the same day of her death. Through trial and error, frustration and experimentation, Sam has no choice but to think about her life, purpose and actions in a new way, in order to make a change not only for herself, but for those around her.
The film begins like any other high-school-focused story. There are the popular girls, who absolutely love making sure others know when and where they don’t belong. There are the jocks, the nerds and the dark, artsy types. You get the drill – it’s basically a recap of High School Musical’s “Stick to the Status Quo” jam. The main characters, however, are deeper than you would expect. We discover why Lindsay (Halston Sage), the ringleader of the girl squad, is always defensive; we see how much the girls truly care for one another, and how they are, at the end of the day, loyal, understanding friends. Sam experiences extreme changes in perspective and personality that feel valid, not forced. Finally, the tormented artist, Juliet (Elena Kampouris), ends up being the main catalyst in the film, and unearths the often unspoken dangers of high school bullying and emotional well-being.
The cinematography, however, offers promise for something more. Set in the Pacific Northwest, the shots are full of expansive forestry, and the color scheme of the film is almost entirely pale blues and similar monotone colors, giving the story an eerie ambiance that coincides well the “hipster”/grunge Tumblr scene. It’s more mature, more serious – telling the audience that the film will have a broader message to get across than “why can’t we all be friends?”
The plot of the film was, for the most part, predictable. I mean, reliving the day over and over again to learn a lesson is not a new idea – shout-out to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day”, circa 1993. However, I do feel that director Russo-Young did a good job at returning to that narrative in a way relevant to audiences too young for Murray. By centering the story around a conventional high school narrative of the “us vs. them,” he showed how interconnected we all are, and how our decisions can impact all of those around us.
Overall, the film was better than I expected it to be, but still quite predictable. The cinematography was beautiful, but the plot itself felt a bit overdone. Even so, there were points in the film that felt fresh and new, including Juliet’s reactions to the mean girls, how Sam sticks up for herself and others against her best friend, Lindsay, and the elements of surprise that led to a better understanding of each of the characters and how their minds work. “Before I Fall” is the scoop of vanilla ice cream at a dessert shop – not bad, but definitely not a sundae.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars