Young adult novels were once the dominant movies. With franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games, teens were flocking to the theaters to see their favorite book-turned-movie. Things have certainly changed, as the last The Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Part 2, did not fare well at the box office. Movies like Divergent and The Mortal Instruments tried to regain the market, but failed to make the impression The Hunger Games made. The genre did seem to be immortal before now.
Now, with The Hunger Games movies officially done, are YA movies just not something moviegoers want to see? New YA movies like The 5th Wave and Allegiant: Part 1 were total failures both critically and commercially. Now, Before I Fall is the movie that will try to regain this dying franchise.
Before I Fall follows the story of Samantha Kingston, a high schooler with an attitude. She has it all: good looks, a beautiful boyfriend, and a popular group of friends. However, her life quickly takes a turn when she gets stuck reliving the same today over and over again. While Before I Fall is nowhere near the quality of The Hunger Games or Groundhog Day, this YA thriller has a charm of its own.
A Misguided Opening
From the start, Before I Fall seems like a rehash of Mean Girls. It depicts a stereotypical high school with stereotypical characters. They are the irritable, self-centered girls that aren’t very likable at first. Our main character, Zoey Deutch, disrespects her loving parents, bullies an innocent girl, and ignores her middle school best guy friend for the douche-bag boyfriend. Reliving the opening of the movie over and over again would be a living nightmare.
Fortunately, Before I Fall doesn’t follow the opening for very long. It’s only after that when you can start to appreciate the film’s crisp and beautiful cinematography. Zoey Deutch‘s performance becomes less cliché, and in the end, she delivers a strong performance. Ry Russo-Young‘s direction is rather solid, and the film becomes something deeper, darker, and bolder than what the cliché opening would make you suggest.
Bold Second Chances
The only performance in the movie that stands out is Zoey Deutch. Her group of female friends stays like the rehash of Mean Girls, and not much character development happens to them. This is very much Sam’s story, and for the most part, it works. The film finds enough for her to do, and in the process, her character evolves.
The thriller is surprisingly stylish, and this helps you take the movie more seriously. The movie takes liberty with slow motion shots, long takes, and closeups; something that greatly elevates its rough patches. Much of it is due to Michael Fimognari‘s brilliant cinematography. Overall, this creates a gorgeous movie that feels more like an indie, which is a nice change of pace from a big budget YA adaptation like Divergent.
Though, nothing is bolder than the ending the film conjures up. It is not there to please nor is it without a statement. Now, I’m aware that the book does have the same ending, but if The Hunger Games taught us anything, it’s that the ending can change. It’s a bold move to keep a rather controversial ending that will turn off a lot of its teen viewers that are hoping for that Disney-like happy ending. Not that I have anything against Disney, but Before I Fall‘s ending seems genuine, and that’s a decision I can stand behind.
Deeper Than It Should Be
The days do feel repetitive, but that’s the idea. The déjà vu Sam has mimics the constant struggles of the girl she kept bullying. It may seem like the old saying “what goes around comes around”, except that it does it in a darker manner. The bullying, the snarky attitude towards her parents, and ignoring her best friend are without consequences, and are all themes that high schoolers face.
While Before I Fall is preaching to the choir, it is never afraid to show its choir the harsh reality of life. There are no loopholes or remedy for Sam’s repeating cycle. She cannot avoid it nor can she turn the tides. She will keep living the same day until she changes the outcome, and sometimes a sorry can’t always make everything better. These are the elements that will go beyond the high school viewers to interest more mature viewers.
Nevertheless, it’s a timely adaption that shouldn’t be overlooked. It not only gives voice to the bullied, but it gives voice to the YA genre in general. Much like Sam, maybe the genre does deserve a second chance. Maybe they can find their niche in small budget movies instead of the full-blown blockbusters. Director Ry Russo-Young may be on to something here, and it deserves attention.
For everyone who loves YA movies or novels, Before I Fall is a solid adaption of your favorite book. Zoey Deutch‘s strong performance and Michael Fimognari’s cinematography at least make the rough patches watchable. However, it’s only after the movie’s setup that Before I Fall really shines.
It’s not afraid to go dark and end boldly, something the YA genre has always struggled with. But, even though it’s still not anything like The Hunger Games, it’s the voice of the falling genre that may be too late to save.
What is your favorite YA movie? Do you think the genre is dying?
Before I Fall is currently playing in the US and the release date for the UK is TBA. For full release dates see here.