The film adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s YA novel “Before I Fall” is the philosophical “Groundhog Day” for the selfie generation that pensive teens have been waiting for. Director Ry Russo-Young (“Nobody Walks”) ensures that the young adult flick goes beyond the overused YOLO theme and approaches the familiar plot with a certain nuance that many teen movies lack. The film follows Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch, “Why Him?”), who seemingly has it all: the douchey boyfriend, the giggly clique and the legs of Gigi Hadid. Sam realizes that her life may not be as flawless as it seems as she relives the day leading up to a fateful car accident again and again. Throughout her déjà vu adventures, Sam shifts from a selfish queen bee to a caring, mindful friend.
At the film’s start, Sam and her posse are unbearably basic. They Snapchat everything, they shriek one too many times and they say things like “bae” and “Should I post this?” What at first is an irritating representation of today’s teens soon becomes a scarily accurate portrayal of this generation. While Sam is evolving with each rendition of her last day, her friends are stagnant. No matter how much she grows one day, her buddies make the same immature remarks the next day. Yet, the friendship of Sam and her clique goes far beyond the surface level. While other teen movies may focus on the romantic, “Before I Fall” brings some much-needed attention to the value of friendship for the average teen girl.
“Before I Fall” manages to capture Sam’s personal growth, while allowing her to develop relationships and storylines with her surrounding cast of characters, all within the frame of one repetitive day. From the loving gaze of a childhood crush to the unapologetic sexuality of the token lesbian, from the relentlessly bullied misunderstood loner to the adorable little sister with a lisp, Sam attempts to mend the relationships she has failed to foster. Sam is, at the film’s beginning, self-absorbed and cruel, but after repeating the same day the same way, she realizes something needs to change. What begins as confusion turns into indifference, then anger. Only then does Sam decide to take charge of her fate and make her last day a worthy one.
What “Before I Fall” accomplishes is Sam’s struggle to discover what she needs to change in herself and in her relationships in order to end the cycle that afflicts her. Sam becomes increasingly more aware of her shortcomings with each rendition, leaving everyday a little wiser. While the film is a loop of the same day, Deutch turns what might initially feel mundane into a captivating narrative. Her performance adds layers of depth and sincerity to her character’s struggle, making Sam’s redemption an endearing one. Sam’s growth is the hallmark of the film, leaving viewers satisfied by her metamorphosis, yet the ending is exactly that — an ending. What the audience fails to realize at the film’s finish is that Sam is in fact reliving her last day, the last day before she fell. Sam’s path to discovering empathy is paved with the lessons she has learned and the love she has gained, yet the viewer still craves redemption for Sam after February 12th.