Before I Fall leans into its melodrama, yet creates an effective message. It likely will not become a classic, but still is entertaining.
In Before I Fall, based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, Sam (Zoey Deutch) wakes up in her average teenage life on February 12. After a party that night, she gets into a car accident, and wakes up that morning again on February 12. This day keeps repeating until Sam realizes she is fated to repeat that day for a reason.
This plot can be easily surmised from the trailer. However, it fails to enthrall an audience, as evident through its low box office turnout. This is disappointing because Before I Fall was actually a pleasant surprise.
As the plot is revealed in the trailer, the movie becomes more about the experience. Every element in the movie works together to carefully piece together the tone. From the Pacific Northwest setting to the cool colored costumes, and the almost permanent cloud of mist, everything throws the audience into an eerie world. The music is sometimes overbearing and the light noticeably unnatural, yet both strengthen the mood.
All of these elements do seem a little extreme. Like so many teen dramas, Before I Fall heightens the uncomfortable realities of high school into melodrama. It does deal with serious topics that should not be handled lightly, which can sometimes be problematic within a melodramatic atmosphere. If you allow yourself to accept Before I Fall, it becomes an incredibly immersive experience. The melodrama falls away as you enter this mystical world. However, if you distance yourself, the melodrama becomes overwhelming and everything seems a little silly.
It is definitely problematic for the movie to divide the audience so distinctly. However, its meticulous efforts to achieve this tone are fairly remarkable. Unfortunately, a handful of lines are noticeably cheesy, which can throw the viewer. This would occur more often if it were not for the strong performances. Some of the slang definitely feels like an adult trying to imitate teenagers, yet the performances are extraordinarily sincere, which also helps the tone.
For the premise of the story, Sam and her friends are initially presented as despicable people. This is necessary to show Sam’s development throughout the experience, while importantly not making them cartoonish. The cast’s performances as a whole make them feel real. However, notably, Deutch successfully carries the movie.
Although much of the movie is aided by voice–over, this feels largely unnecessary because her face is expressive enough to get the point across. The movie relies on Deutch’s performance, because the audience has to believe Sam’s development to make her goal sympathetic.
Sam’s journey provides an important message about the bystander effect. Despite its high school movie clichés, including the teacher’s lesson directly paralleling the overall plot, the film never feels preachy. Sam naturally becomes aware that standing by her friends’ cruelty has real negative effects.
Although Sam learns an important lesson, it is almost negated by the ending, yet this problem is likely inherent within the book’s plot. Sam learns this lesson for herself, but never successfully stands up to her friends. Sam’s friends likely would not have learned or changed much from this experience, making Before I Fall seem to feel aware of its impressionable audience.
Before I Fall is able to resonate with the audience, despite what ever their relationship with high school might be. However, it does ask the audience to put in effort to accept the world. Ultimately it can be a fulfilling experience, carefully building the atmosphere and dispensing information to maintain the audience’s interest. It creates an effective experience in the moment, but fails to make a lasting impression.