“That was a long time ago. That was yesterday.” ~ Before I Fall
A day stuck at home with the worst sore throat I’ve ever experienced seems like a good time to write a review of a film I saw and loved recently. I’m pretty sure that when I wrote my post about the young adult novel Before I Fall just a couple months ago, I promised to also post a review of the movie adaptation. Well, I did see the movie that very weekend, when it first opened, but I never got around to documenting my thoughts about it here on my blog. To be honest, it’s been such a long time since I wrote a post that was anything other than a book review, and that’s mainly because I have a lot going on in my life which is so exciting but also very time-consuming. Don’t worry, I promise there will be a post coming soon about all these amazing changes – for now though, I will talk to you a little bit about the movie Before I Fall, as I promised so long ago.
Before I Fall is a movie as beautiful and haunting as the novel it is based on. Naturally, the movie is quite a lot shorter than the novel and it does omit some details and scenes (one in particular that stands out is the interaction between Sam and her math teacher, which I am actually really happy that they took out of the movie), but that’s due largely to the fact that the movie is succinct and of average length. I appreciated that because I’m not a fan of excessively long movies, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any real need for the length. Sure, Before I Fall could’ve included some more elements from the novel, but it didn’t need to, and I think the writer and director did a fabulous job of determining what dialogues and events were essential to the telling of the story and focusing mainly on those.
The film is haunting for so many reasons, and I think it’s all down to the remarkable directing talents of Ry Russo-Young. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of her other films, but I am definitely interested in watching a few others because of how much I enjoyed Before I Fall. Before I Fall is so subtly poignant and memorable, because of both the acting and subject matter (more on this in a moment), but also because of the way it is shot, the way the environment and scenery add a layer of somber shadow to the entire atmosphere. As a proud Canadian, I knew instantly that it was shot in British Columbia, because I’d recognize that misty locale anywhere, and I feel that setting fit so perfectly with the overall story and with Sam’s struggles and journey throughout the film. The entire thing felt dark and wet, sort of like it does in Toronto today, with rain intermittently pouring and heavy gray clouds darkening the sky, and that is by far my favourite sort of scenery to see in a movie. It made everything feel that much heavier, and I think that was a brilliant choice for the environment of the film.
Russo-Young also does a remarkable job of making the viewer look at and understand the nuances and intricacies of the film. A great example of this is the scene when Sam goes to Kent’s party for the second time (after waking up on Cupid Day for the second time in a row), and the camera just follows her, focusing on her facial reactions only and allowing the other characters to blur out around her. There’s a wonderful moment when Sam is dancing with her best friend Lindsay, and the camera remains fixed on Sam so that we can gage her emotional journey as she relives the party. Another brilliantly shot and articulated piece of the film is the day that Sam spends entirely at home with her little sister, Izzy. This day is shot absolutely beautifully and it is so heartbreaking but also touching. I love that Russo-Young decided to splice scenes of Sam and Izzy exploring the woods outside their home with moments of them just chatting and relaxing in bed, and this was by far the most thought-provoking and heart wrenching part of the film because it allows the viewer to get inside Sam, to understand that although she is troubled and often misguided, she is at her very core nothing more than a sister, a former little girl herself.
“How is it possible to change so much and not be able to change anything at all?”
And, that brings me to the real strength of the film, the acting of Zoey Deutch. Again, I haven’t seen any other films that Deutch has been in, but I am now very intrigued and eager to witness more of her acting, because she is nothing short of incredible in Before I Fall. I talked about this a bit in my review of the novel, but Sam is one of those characters who it is very easy to be conflicted about. She is a “mean girl” in every sense of the word, but because Lauren Oliver offers us a chance to get to know her, to reside in her mind, we see that she is wonderfully complex and has such a big heart. Zoey Deutch is able to portray all of these complexities with just her facial expressions and the way she talks, and it is something special to behold. Her eyes and especially her lips say so much, without even using words at all, and it is so easy to follow Sam’s emotional trajectory just by mapping the tiny changes on Deutch’s face. Since so much of the film is centered on watching Sam’s facial expressions, on seeing her wake up over and over and noting the subtle changes she goes through during her repetitive days, Deutch was a perfect choice for the role. Her acting really soars toward the end of the film, and I particularly like the part when she returns to Kent’s party after spending the day with Izzy and begins to finally piece together her role in this day and what is required of her to move forward. It is depressing and sad to watch her understand what she must do, but it is also a perfectly articulated journey, and seeing Deutch run through the woods, both desperate and resigned, is a profound moment. Deutch also doesn’t overact at all, and her portrayal of Sam’s fears and anxieties is so subtle and gentle and sweet that it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Sam and root for her. That makes the ending even more breathtaking and difficult.
“For the first time when I wake up….I truly understand what needs to happen. I truly understand how to live this day.” ~ Sam
I really recommend Before I Fall because I believe it is a movie that both teenagers and their parents will sincerely enjoy. It has stayed firmly with me over the past few months and I think it may be one of my favourite book-to-movie adaptations. It is certainly one of my favourite movies of the year so far, and may go down as the best movie of 2017 for me. I can’t stress this enough: go see it!
❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart