PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Before I Fall makes you recall.
Other movies, that is, because this one, involving experiencing the same day over and over again, is – as even that short description makes plain — so similarly themed to such films as Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, even though the former is a comedy and the latter is a thriller.
Before I Fall is a drama, but like its predecessors, it uses the time-warp device to explore its characters.
Zoey Deutch is Samantha Kingston, a high school senior in the Pacific Northwest who sees herself – and is – popular and successful in her circles, living a charmed life along with her nasty, privileged friends, played by Lindsay (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi), and Ally (Cynthy Wu).
On what is called Cupid Day,a Valentine’s Day of sorts on February 12, Samantha makes plans to meet her boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley), at a senior party hosted by her former childhood friend, Kent (Logan Miller), and perhaps lose her virginity.
But when she shows up at their arranged place, Rob is drunk squared.
As for her mean-girl friends, they are harassing outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouris), who aggressively criticizes them for their ugly bullying behavior.
As the evening progresses, a tragic car crash occurs, but Samantha wakes up in her own bed the next morning, only to discover that it’s yesterday again – but that her memory is intact.
Unhappy with the déjà vu from here, Samantha is at first confused, then despondent. But she goes about trying to solving this sudden riddle she’s trapped in in which she keeps reliving the last day of her life.
Eventually she begins to take advantage of her unique reincarnation-like situation and use it as a corrective for her sorry life and repair her friendships and relationships, including with her mother (Jennifer Beals).
Director Ry Russo-Young (Orphans, You Won’t Miss Me, Nobody Walks) works smartly from the screenplay by Maria Maggenti, who has adapted the 2010 Young Adult novel by Lauren Oliver, and gets solid performances all the way around, especially by Deutch, who makes the most of her numerous telling closeups.
The narrative uses the usual conflicts and ironies of high school life and home life – and the challenge of handling both at the same time – and takes them seriously while it scratches the universal itches that apply well beyond the borders of the film’s essential teens-and-tweens target audience, who are apt to embrace its concerns just a bit more enthusiastically than anyone else.
Kindness, enlightenment, and redemption are on the menu, as are a number of teachable moments. But they’re treated without pomposity or self-importance.
And the satisfying ending is right on target.
So we’ll relive 3 stars out of 4 for Before I Fall, a nifty, admirable time-loop fantasy that you just might fall for.