Teenage drama tackles darker issues

Rising Hollywood starlet Zoey Deutch follows in the footsteps of her mother - Back to the Future's Lea Thompson - by starring in Before I Fall, a time-warping teen movie.
The “mean girls” squad (from left) Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu.
The “mean girls” squad (from left) Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu.PHOTO: CATHAY-KERIS FILMS

REVIEW / DRAMA

BEFORE I FALL (PG13)

99 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars

The story: Samantha (Zoey Deutch) and her three best friends Lindsay (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu) are the most popular - and not the nicest - girls at school. When things go awry at a party on the night of the so-called Cupid Day, Samantha wakes up to discover that her day has started all over again, and again, and again...

Think of this as Groundhog Day (1993) meets Mean Girls (2004).

No explanation is given for why teenager Samantha keeps re-living the same day while dealing with popularity and boy troubles and all those other things that matter to high-school girls, but it does not matter - there is so much surprising tension and drama in the script that there is no time to even consider the holes.

With a story adapted from Lauren Oliver's best-selling 2010 young adult novel, director Ry RussoYoung manages to make every new day that Samantha goes through feel fresh, even though technically, it is the same day.

As the protagonist soon realises, the choices that she makes, no matter how small, can result in vastly different consequences.

So she tries everything: One day, she is the perfect daughter and, the next, she becomes the ulti- mate rebel, wearing a skimpy outfit to school and coming on to her teacher.

If it all sounds like the makings of another vapid teenage drama, the film stands out for being unafraid of venturing into darker territories and discussing difficult issues such as teenage suicide and cyber bullying.

There is a clear moral lesson to be learnt here, yet the movie is not at all preachy.

Helping to deliver that message is rising actress Deutch, who finally gets the opportunity to shine here after playing forgettable roles in movies such as Dirty Grandpa (2016) and Why Him? (2016).

She puts her pretty face in a layered performance that will stay with viewers as she portrays all of Samantha's horror, confusion and wonder at her new way of life.

By the time Samantha makes peace with it all, she has become a three-dimensional character - one who is real and relatable, even when she does things that do not make her the most likeable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Teenage drama tackles darker issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe