Looking for a movie just like Groundhog Day but with more teen angst? That’s exactly what I was expecting when I walked into the theater for the preview of Before I Fall by Open Road Films.
Based on a 2010 young adult novel written by Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall is the story of a teenager who is forced to relive the same day, every day for a week. It just happens to be the worst day of her life because it’s the day she dies.
Yet she wakes up the next morning to relive the same day over again.
On one hand, you feel like this day is like every other day for popular teen Samantha Kingston. She snags a ride to school with her fellow “bitches” Lindsay, Elody, and Ally while talking about her plans to lose her virginity to hot guy/popular dude/boyfriend Rob that night. But it’s also Cupid Day, the day when every popular girl in school is flooded with roses from admirers.
I’ll admit that I fell some teen angst with flashbacks to my own high school days. My school only delivered carnations but they, too, were only received by the most popular kids in the class. I’m not sure I ever snagged one.
Don’t worry, though. There’s a social representative for each outcast: the nice but somewhat geeky cute boy, the lesbian living in “heteronormative hell,” the hot male teacher, and the complete misfit who seems to attract bullying from the popular crowd simply by existing.
Sounds like a modern-day cliche, doesn’t it? Couple it with a storyline that’s already been done and you have the makings for a forgettable teenage movie.
Except that’s not what I got at all.
I’m not sure if it was the beautiful Pacific Northwest setting of the film or the feeling that I was watching an incredibly complex sociology experiment, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the film. It begins with Sam waking up to start her day while a version of Sam who already knows the fate ahead of her narrates the hindsight she now has:
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”
I’ve read and watched movies based on Young Adult novels. Sometimes they’re cloying. Sometimes you accept that you’re just not the target demographic for the movie and move on. But something about this movie has stayed with me.
I predict that adults and young adults will each walk away with a different message but it will still be worthwhile.
Recommended for: Based on the issues of sexuality, I recommend it for ages 14 and up. This is a great movie for moms and teenage daughters but also for teenage sons as well.
Discussion points: Be prepared to talk about big issues like life and death but other more relevant things like teen sexuality, virginity, popularity, bullying, suicide, and, of course, doing the right thing.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars; it’s probably not Oscar-worthy but a thoroughly engaging and somewhat cerebral teen flick.