Before I Fall is deja vu all over again, again.
Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow – it’s another story about a person fated to relive the same day, applied here (and adapted from the YA novel) to a story about a teen girl.
With surprisingly satisfying results. Or maybe not so surprising. In truth, there is something irresistible about this device, and something about the feedback-loop narrative that is particularly well-suited to movies, with their unique ability to fracture and reset time.
In Before I Fall, high school senior Samantha (Zoey Deutch) has achieved the status and popularity she always thought she wanted. She’s best friends with the school's stinging queen bee (Halston Sage) and her coterie (Medalion Rahimi, Cynthy Wu).
The story takes place on Cupid Day, when senior girls get valentines. Samantha has been angling to get one from a popular jock, and plans to rendezvous with him later at an unsupervised party.
She arrives to find him drunk and incoherent. Meanwhile her friends have decided to spend the evening picking on a misfit girl who shows up to denounce them. It ends in tears, and a car crash, and Samantha wakes up the next day, only it’s the same day.
Groundhog Day played this scenario for laughs, Tomorrow for action and suspense. Before I Fall aims for something darker and more serious-minded (the stakes are life and death, and the misty, moody film, shot in British Columbia, has the shot-at-odd-angles look of a horror movie).
Samantha pouts about her predicament, tries to game it, surrenders to despair before finally using the situation to correct the mistake her life had become. Stuck in the same day, time weighs on her differently, she sees how she’d come to neglect her mother (Jennifer Beals!), her sister, and old friends now discarded.
Reliving the same day, she sees the value in repairing friendships and relationships, deepening connections, and limiting the damage she’s done, or that might be done that day.
The movie is earnest but never cloyingly so, and often quite effective despite its morbid conclusion -- well-acted by all, directed with an assured consistency of style and tone by Ry Russo-Young.