Young Adult (YA) movies always take me back to high school, a time I feel like, as Sam describes it, is a blimp in my life. However, Russo-Young’s Before I Fall takes us on a whirlwind steel-blue journey through the charming life of Sam Kingston (Zoey Deutch) who, after dying in a car accident, is forced to relive her last day on earth in an infinite loop until she is able to figure out how to break out of it. This film could have easily fallen into the trap of a monotone broken record, but it recycles the concept of Groundhog Day in a refreshing manner that leaves you pondering on your own life.
Loosely based on Lauren Oliver’s novel of the same name, Sam constantly relives Cupid Day and what Russo-Young has done well is make each day Sam lives to be distinctly different from the last as she tries to come to terms with what is happening to her. From empowering ballads to pop tunes, the film focuses on the theme of second chances and the concept of making every day count as they are portrayed as the powerful forces behind what’s keeping Sam on earth.
Her life on the surface is perfect – she is popular, has a circle of best friends and is dating an equally popular guy. It’s a chore to watch her parade around with her mean girl friends during the first few reincarnations of her last day. From planning her first time having sex with her boyfriend Rob (Kian Lawley) to getting drunk at Kent’s (Logan Miller) place, the audiences comes to realise that Sam’s life isn’t so great. She is rude to her sister, mean to her mother, bullies those who don’t fit in on a regular basis like Juliet (Elena Kampouris) and doesn’t seem to care about her old friendships.
As the mystery slowly unravels before us, we are given a few clues along the way, from the rose Sam receives in class that hints she might be simply acting like a “bitch” for her friends, a superficial mask that hides her supposedly big heart. But the movie makes us question what kind of person Sam really is. What caused her to be placed in this infinite loop? What is she being punished for and if she is such a good person, why hasn’t she been able to figure out how to break out of it?
Sam is subjected to go back and forth, repeating February 12th with a different attitude or plan to try and free herself. Along the way, secrets come to light. She spends time with her sister, is appreciative of her parents, loving to her friends – until the next day she alienates them and becomes self-destructive. She even stays home from the party that
would inevitably lead to her death, and while she is spared another character is not and so the cycle repeats itself. As frustrating as the repetition is, Sam starts to unravel herself before us as she finally comes to understand what needs to be done. And what she does is kind-hearted, brave and exactly what is expected.
While Sam is a rather shallow and boring character to begin with, screenwriter Maria Maggenti makes sure we see the layers behind Sam and the links that connect her to others. Also, Russo-Young did a brilliant job in making sure February 12th didn’t become laborious and overly familiar as Sam eventually comes to a solution to her circular problem.
While the ending leaves a trail of questions burning in your mouth, overall the film is a well-acted adaption of the novel with the exploration of themes such as bullying, depression, suicide and forgiveness. It emphasises the importance of stopping bullying and the pain it causes others, a subtle yet powerful message that young adults need to remember. It also encourages being kind to others and making sure every day counts – just like Sam.