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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 11, 2017

Before I Fall Movie Review: A Film About Second Chances And Being Given The Chance To Correct Your Mistakes

“BEFORE I FALL” is a youth-oriented movie about mean girls in high school but it has a more serious-minded message to convey about the devastating effects of bullying in school. It’s based on the best selling 2010 fiction for young adults by Lauren Oliver, told in the first person point of view by the narrator who gets to relive her death everyday for a week. Comparisons to “Groundhog Day”, “Looper” and “Edge of Tomorrow” would be inevitable.

Samantha (Zooey Deutch of “Why Him?”) is about to graduate from high school and seems to be leading a very happy life. She lives in a beautiful mountain town in the Pacific Northwest, has caring parents, the best of friends, a dreamboat of a boyfriend coveted by everyone, until that fateful day that they call Cupid’s Day when everything suddenly changes. As she says in her voice over narration: “Maybe for you, there’s a tomorrow. But for some of us, there’s only today.”

Sam wakes up at 6:30 that morning, taking for granted her parents and little sister and rushing outside for a ride to school with her three BFF’s: Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu, who’s Chinese) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi, who’s Indian.) In their car, it’s revealed that Sam is supposed to surrender her virginity to her boyfriend that night, Rob (Kian Lawley).

Cupid’s Day is a special day where students send roses with special letters to one another. The popular ones get lots of flowers and those who are considered outcast get none. One of them is Juliet (Elena Kampouris), an artistically inclined misfit who Sam and her friends have always bullied for being a weirdo. Sam also gets a rose from an old childhood friend, Kent (Logan Miller), but she ignores him even if he’s obviously so smitten with her.

At the party in Kent’s home that night, Rob gets so drunk he ends up throwing up, while Juliet calls Lindsay a bitch and everyone throws beer at Juliet who runs crying into the forest. The four girls leave later and figure in a car crash. Then we see Sam waking up again and again at the same day (Cupid’s Day) and same time (6:30 AM). At first, she thinks it’s all a dream, then she tries to change some incidents to avoid the accident, but she still wakes up on the same day, on the same time. It’s a situation compared earlier by their teacher to the myth of Sisyphus, who is forever pushing a big rock up a hill repeatedly.

She then rebels and wears a provocative dress and does whatever she wants to antagonize everyone. But she eventually realizes that maybe, what she needs is to change herself inwardly, by making amends with people she has hurt, including her parents, her sister, her friends, even those that she has slighted or bullied. She also chooses to keep her virginity intact. Oh, how we wish that all those who are about to die would be given the same chance to relive their last day over and over again until they have made right every single wrong thing that they did in their lives.

The film strikes the right chords probably because it’s source is written by a woman, the one who adapted it for the big screen is also one (Maria Maggenti) and also the director (Ry Russo Young). As such, there is a palpable female-centric honesty to the way the story is treated and poignantly presented, but in a way that doesn’t come out as overly preachy or sentimental. No one comes out as a true villain because we learn that somehow, everyone is dealing with her own pain, like Lindsay whose hostility is adequately explained.

Zooey starts as a pain in the ass as the bratty Sam but as we get to join in her final journey, she gains our sympathy because of her conscious decision to change for the better and to care more for others when she learns that small cruelties and kind acts can have big lasting effects. The whole cast delivers a good ensemble performance, including Jennifer Beals of “Flashdance’ as Sam’s mother. The film might be a bore for some old people but the way it deals with the importance of family and friendship, introspection and self-searching, is something all kinds of viewers can relate with.