Sundance 2017 Review: Before I Fall is Life-Affirming and Inspiring.
Before I Fall could be one of the biggest surprises to come out of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The film, which is based on a book with the same title, follows Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch), a spoiled rich girl who is spending Cupid’s Day with her three best friends. Samantha has the perfect day all planned out, but a horrific car incident is about to change her life forever. When Samantha wakes after the accident, she discovers that she isn’t dead but instead is stuck reliving the same day over and over again.
When I initially saw the trailer for Before I Fall, I had a no interest in seeing it. The trailer did nothing for me, but after learning that the film would have it’s World Premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, I knew I had to see it. This is the type of film that I love to see. It is a film that honestly portrays teenagers and doesn’t try to make them out to be these perfect innocent individuals. Instead, Samantha and her friends Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu), and Elody (Medalion Rahimi) are all shown as these entitled rich girls that do whatever they want and bully others just for fun.
I give a lot of credit to Lauren Oliver for writing a book about four teenage girls that are mean-spirited and unlikable. I applaud screenwriter (Maria Maggenti) for somehow taking Oliver’s book and turning it into a script that even though you don’t like most of the characters, you still end up with a life-inspiring tale that doesn’t try to sugar-coat things. It is so easy for a writer to make audiences feel compassion towards a social outcast or a nerd guy or girl but it is incredibly difficult to make an audience care about mean people that are self-indulgent and treat others poorly just for the hell of it.
Zoey Deutch delivers an incredibly layered performance as Samantha. I have always liked Deutch as an actress and it is great to see her in a role that gives her a chance to shine. Deutch owns this role, and even though you don’t sympathize with her character initially, you begin to like her as she begins grows as a person. This is such a great role because there is so much to it. This isn’t a story about a mean girl who randomly decides to be nice. Instead, this is a story about a girl that has everything she ever wanted and all of a sudden that is taken away from her. Samantha is forced to reevaluate her life and her actions. She must relive a single day over and over again which allows her to see how she treats and views others.
There is a lot to think about while watching this film and I enjoyed how Samantha goes through each day with a different outlook on life. One day, Samantha is rebellious and another she is shown as this loving daughter that just wants to spend time with her family. There is this great concept being addressed throughout the film that suggests that you can change yourself and how others view you. There is one point in the film where Samantha asks her mother, “Am I a good person?” You can understand at this moment that Samantha is seriously questioning herself and her actions.
I love that there is a photo in Kent’s room that reads “become who you are.” I feel like that is such a great message to give to an audience. This story makes you question your own actions and behavior. It makes you think about how you treat others and how you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. It makes you appreciate life and reminds you that you never know when it is going to end so you should spend each day being the best person that you could possibly be.
What makes all the messages in this film so great is that the script conveys them in such a non-preachy manner. The two girls that are bullied by Samantha and her friends aren’t portrayed as these innocent characters that are bullied just for the sake of being bullied. These characters have backstories and secrets. There isn’t this sudden change of heart where Lindsay randomly stops being the mean girl. There are instead realistic conversations that take place between the characters about their secrets and behaviors. They don’t just learn a lesson and move on.
While this film is geared towards a teenage female demographic, I found that the messages in the film are universal. Considering I saw this film at Sundance with thousands of people of all ages in attendance, I think that proves that this film has something for everyone. It is a unique take on a coming of age tale that asks audiences to think while being entertained.
Before I Fall is a life-affirming and inspirational film. It makes you question who you are vs. who you want to be. It is well-written, wonderfully directed, and showcases an outstanding performance by Zoey Deutch. The film is a nice change of pace from the standard teenage angst tale. It is a wonderful little film and one that is written by a female, directed by a female, and stars several females in the lead roles. Before I Fall is a terrific and unexpected surprise that I cannot wait to revisit when it opens in March.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Before I Fall is a 8 out of 10.