Movie Review: Before I Fall

Based on the 2010 young adult novel by Lauren Oliver, “Before I Fall” premiered on March 3, 2017. The movie stays very true to the book and is a poignant, occasionally hard-to-watch, social commentary on the hierarchy of teenage culture. It starts as any movie that takes place in high school does a group of tight-knit friends heading towards graduation blissfully unaware of the drama that lies ahead. Sam Kingston (Zoey Deutch) and her glamorous girlfriends Lindsay Edgecomb (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi) start their morning as any other, looking forward to the festivities of “Cupid Day.” They joke about Sam losing her virginity that night to her sub-par boyfriend, Rob, and imagine how many roses each popular girl will receive from her admirers that day. The day takes its natural course; Sam is seen avoiding the flirtations of her old, rather dorky but good-intentioned, childhood friend, Kent. At lunch, the group casually teases the school outcast, Juliet Sykes, and after school they all get dolled-up for a party at Kent’s in a good old-fashioned montage.

At the party, things take a dark turn, when Sykes shows up and Edgecomb leads an full-out verbal and physical attack. The girls take turns calling her a “psycho,” throwing drinks at her, and pushing her around. The brutal scene is followed by the girls leaving the party. The car ride is quiet at first, everyone still reeling from the encounter with Sykes, but takes a tragic turn when they hit something in the road and the car flips over. It appears to be a fatal crash. That is, until Sam wakes up in her bed the next day.

But it isn’t the next day at all. It’s still Feb. 13. She wakes up to the same alarm on her phone, the same text from Lindsay, the same surprise paper crane from her sweet little sister. Sam goes through the day thinking she’s just experiencing intense deja vu, until the same car accident happens. When she wakes up on Feb. 13 for the third time, she realizes this isn’t a dream, but her reality. She tries valiantly to keep her friends from going to the party and changing their fate, but even with no accident, there is different, somber news and she continues to wake up on the same day.

Kingston’s efforts to stop the cycle are fruitless. She eventually becomes frustrated and, under the impression that her actions are meaningless, spends a day making reckless decisions and acting out of character. It isn’t until Kingston learns she needs to change the way she treats others and she makes one truly selfless act that the cycle is broken.

The cloudy, somber Pacific Northwest setting is a refreshing change of pace from typical California teen movies. The soundtrack was subtle yet, necessary considering some songs were repeated throughout the movie, with just the right moody, indie music paired with the many rainy car rides that occurred. Deutch played her dynamic role well. The audience is treated to Sam’s background as a less-than popular kid, showing the origins of her relationship with Kent and also with Lindsay, who was bully before friend. So we see her development into the privileged, popular girl she is at the beginning of the movie as well as her growth out of it. Deutch was an interesting choice for the part, as many may remember her from her younger roles on Disney shows. But 2016 seemed to be a major year for Deutch, who appeared in multiple big-screen movies including “Why Him?” and “Dirty Grandpa,” alongside Zac Efron. Deutch’s chemistry with on-screen bestie Halston Sage (recently starring in “Paper Towns”) was palpable, however, their relationship was clearly complex, with some tensions revealing themselves as Sam was forced to repeat that fateful day, but Sam’s love for her friends is ultimately what guides her to make the decision that breaks the cycle. In my opinion, newcomer Medalion Rahimi stole the show as wild-child Elody, major girl-crush. I hope to see a lot more of her in the future.

The writing for the movie was cliché, and despite noting the necessity, I still cringed every time someone said “bae.” The female screenwriter and director duo, Maria Maggenti and Ry Russo-Young, did work closely with author Lauren Oliver to stay true to the book. The only major difference I noted was that the movie took some liberties with the number of times Sam repeated the day. The book was very specific about her only reliving it for a week, whereas the film made it seem as if she had gone through it countless times. The writers also did a great job incorporating foreshadowing. Lindsay has a few intense lines about death and killing in which she conveys her loyalty to her friends. There is also a lesson on the myth of Sisyphus in Kingston’s class- a man condemned by the Greek gods to endlessly roll a boulder to the top of a mountain. Overall, the movie was fairly powerful and a welcome adaptation of the book. A mix between a dark Mean Girls and the classic do-over movie, it sent a clear message about bullying, the fleetingness of time and the flippancy of today’s teens. Sam notes this in one of her more memorable lines: “Isn’t that how it always works? There’s somebody laughing; there’s somebody being laughed at.”


Julia Mancini is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.mancini@uconn.edu.