Before I Fall -review (Netflix)

The English language is an ever-expanding, evolving, thing. Words get added, some fall out of the common lexicon. It is the usage of words that generally gets a word committed to language. In the eighties, before there was an influencer or even an internet, Thatcherism was a word absorbed into common parlance by virtue of the British press’ coining of the term over the period of the then prime minister’s reign.

Even on the other side of the pond, the term Watergate, once again a term coined by the press, has had every scandal, political or otherwise, since, given the ‘gate’ adage. In the present, with social media the western world’s dominant presence, a new word has entered the modern lexicon.

Personally, I am not a fan of this word. It is kind of stupid and adds nothing to the English language. The word is ‘bae’. ‘Bae’ is a term of endearment, a catch-all pet name, like ‘babe’, ‘sweetie’, or ‘darling’. ‘Bae’ is not a great word. But I digress. Well, actually it is not a digression but it is off-topic. To the review.

I’m going to die today. And again tomorrow…

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is from a well-to-do middle-class family and is part of a popular quartet of girls at her high school. Waking up on February 12th, dubbed Cupid day at school where the boys give girls a rose to show affection, she is picked up by the de facto leader of the quartet, Lindsay Edgecomb (Halston Sage). They pick up the other two on the way, Ally Harris (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi).

Sam, as they all call her, is planning to lose her virginity to Rob Cokran (Kian Lawley) and the girls rib her about it as they drive to school. At school, Cupid day is in full swing. As a teacher takes the class, Kent McFuller (Logan Miller) arrives late, apologising for his tardiness. The teacher continues. He interrupted again as three girls come into the class to deliver roses to the lucky ladies.

Sam receives an unusual rose from somebody. After the class, Kent catches up with her to ask her if she liked the rose. Sam is noncommittal, a little cold towards the obviously smitten Kent. He tells her he is having a party, as his parents are away. Will she come? Perhaps.

The four young women meet at lunch, chatting away. Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris), a timid and frazzled looking student, moves meekly through the cafeteria. Lindsay begins to loudly insult her, the rest of the girls joining in, laughing at Juliet’s expense. Later, in the evening, the girls all get ready together for Kent’s house party.

They go to the party and are having a good time. Rob is totally wasted at the party. Juliet turns up and screams at the four girls, calling them out for bullying her relentlessly. Lindsay throws a drink on her and everyone at the party begins to follow suit, embarrassing her. Juliet runs out of the party.

Where are you going? The party’s not finished!

Kent tries to talk to Sam but she shuts him down. The girls leave the party. Lindsay is driving through the rain. She asks Sam what the time is. Twelve thirty-eight. Lindsay hits something and skids the car flipping over.

Sam wakes up. She checks her phone. It is Cupid day. She continues through the day, confused to be living the same day again, right up to the crash. She wakes up on Cupid day again. She tries to change things, hoping that the next day there will be a different result. She avoids the party, persuading her crew to have a sleepover and watches the time tick past twelve thirty-eight.

They all get messages early in the morning. Juliet committed suicide. Lindsay shows no sign of sadness at her death, even though Elody points out that they used to be friends when younger. Sam did not know they had been friends.

Sam wakes up. It is Cupid day. She continues to relive the same day, the only person knowing what is going to happen at every moment. One day she decides to be a bitch to everybody, calling out Lindsay and alienating the other two. She sleeps with Rob at the party as she hears Juliet getting abused by Lindsay and the rest. She bonds with Kent.

She wakes up on Cupid day. She decides to try something different, bonding with her little sister and spending time with her family. She goes to the party to see Kent. She is hanging out with him and remembers Juliet. She runs into the night to try and stop her. She catches up with her and they talk. Juliet runs into the road and is hit by Lindsay’s car, which then flips over.

Sam wakes up on Cupid day. It is the last time. She knows what she needs to do. She tells those close to her she loves them, breaks up with Rob, stops Lindsay bullying Juliet. She kisses Kent and goes after Juliet again. She tries to talk her out of committing suicide but Juliet still runs into the road. Sam pushes her out of the way, saving her life, but gets killed herself. The end.

This is my dark phase…

Before I Fall is a good film. Utilising the much-used story device of reliving the same day, as seen in Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code and such, Before I Fall differs from those films in being a teen set drama. Based on a book by Lauren Oliver, the screenplay is by Maria Maggenti and it is directed by Ry Russo-Young.

At ninety-eight minutes long, the film moves along nicely, Deutch’s expressive face keeping you engaged for the entire runtime. Halston Sage, who holds her own opposite a brilliant Bella Thorne in You Get Me, is given a bit of a darker role in this as the catty Lindsey. The acting is good from all of the actors, even the underused eighties hottie, Jennifer Beale as Sam’s mother.

The directing is very fluid, with Russo-Young employing some great shot selections. There are lovely overhead shots, giving a sense of disorientation to Sam and tight shots on the girls as a group, reinforcing their closeness. Conversely, Juliet is shot mostly from far away, her alienation from the high school masses emphasised.

Maggenti’s script is also good. It is always a bit of a task making such a cerebral story work on the screen, especially as the central premise is for the story to repeat itself. Maggenti’s script manages to convey Sam’s rising frustration without it getting boring and repetitive.

Before I Fall is an entertaining film that gets better over its runtime. It is definitely worth watching on a lazy Sunday.

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