"Before I Fall" Review

Title: Before I Fall
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Studio: Open Road Pictures
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG-13 (For mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens)

It’s sort of funny to think that the story of “Groundhog Day” would eventually become its own genre in and of itself.  It’s also funny to think that it took so long for its day to come because you can do so much with that premise.  Yes, the idea of someone who gets trapped in a time loop and forced to relive the same day repeatedly is itself a novel idea, but if you want to dig a little deeper you never know what you can find.  “Before I Fall” is a tween version of the story in which a young girl is forced to relive a day of tragedy in a constant loop.  The whole idea is for her to live through the day, understand what needs to be changed, and surpassingly make that important change so that others may have a second chance to live a meaningful life. 

What might make the stakes here a little more tragic is that Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) dies at the end of the day every time.  It must drive her crazy knowing that she is forced to relive the same day over and over with the knowledge that she will die in the same car crash every time.  For that matter, having to go through the same day every day means that she starts to really put her life into perspective.  She is more aware of the kind boy who gives her a surprise flower every day and who may just be a lot nicer than the current boyfriend she has.  She hangs with her friends and starts to find their jokes shallow and mean spirited.  However, on other versions of the same day, she learns more about her friend’s past, which means we sort of understand why they act as shallow as they do.  They put on a show for the world because they don’t want the world to know what they really are: scared kids.

When the movie begins, we assume Lindsay Edgecombe (Halston Sage) is a class a bitch for how she treats others and talks about them.  As the film progresses we slowly start to learn about her past.  We find out she reacted to certain situations in very bad ways.  Though we can’t agree with her, we understand that teenagers react to tragedy in different ways, and she reacted the only way she knew how at the time.  By reliving the same day, Samantha realizes this, and learns things about herself and other people she really wouldn’t have thought to ask before.  She even goes through a serious rebellious stage only to find that living for yourself without the fear of consequences brings her no more pleasure than living them with.  If this were a Christian film, you’d think God was putting her on trial and forcing her to realize that, despite everything, she is secretly a good person.
This is what makes for a good movie: honest to God character development.  Movies like this work not because of some ultimate outcome, but because we end up emphasizing with the characters and their plight.  The conclusion in all this was (for me) very unsatisfying.  If they wanted to go in that direction, they needed to add another ten minutes and do a proper epilogue.  It almost brought the movie down for me.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I did enjoy learning about Samantha and her life.  I liked moments where she realized her mom was once an insecure teen like she was.  I loved Zoey Deutches performance and feel she could be a star in the making if she keeps making good movies like this one.  “Before I Fall” is nowhere near perfect and it’s not going to replace “Groundhog Day,” but at this point it shows that this can be a sustainable genre in and of itself, so long as it knows that the heart of the movie is in the lead character and not the gimmick.

Parents, I suspect this movie was originally supposed to be rated R before the studio got cold feet and released it with a PG-13. Never-the-less, there are still many scenes of drinking, cursing, talking about having sex (actually having some in a few cases), and violent images.  Certain scenes that would normally have nudity keep private parts covered, but the gesture is enough to make you wonder.  Recommended for ages 15 and up.