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Smart tone lifts YA drama 'Before I Fall'

Published March 7, 2017 10:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A teen must relive her last day until she gets it right in "Before I Fall," a young-adult drama that takes its "Groundhog Day"-style premise quite seriously.

It's Friday, Feb. 12, when high-school senior Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) wakes up to her alarm — and the calls of her best friend, Lindsay (Halston Sage), who's picking her up for school. Lindsay, Sam and their friends Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi) are the popular-girl quartet who rule their school, which on "Cupid Day" is measured by the number of val-o-gram roses they receive.

For Sam, it's also the day she plans to lose her virginity to her jock boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley) — probably at a kegger thrown by classmate Kent (Logan Miller), who harbors a crush on Sam going back to third grade. At the party, Rob's drunkenness and Lindsay's harsh treatment of outcast girl Juliet (Elena Kampouris) thwart Sam's plans of deflowering. On the ride home with Sam, Ally and Elody, Lindsay's SUV hits something on a dark road and crashes.

Sam wakes up the next morning, only to realize it's not the next morning. It's Friday morning again, and she finds herself reliving the day — with her friends, at school, at the party and in that fateful car crash — over and over again. She tries to alter the outcome, but always ends up waking up in her bed on Friday morning.

Director Ry Russo-Young (who made the 2012 Sundance drama "Nobody Walks") and screenwriter Maria Maggenti ("Puccini for Beginners"), adapting Lauren Oliver's YA novel, explores the permutations of Sam's endlessly repeated day in fascinating ways — layering in an atmosphere equally charged with dread and anticipation.

As she cycles through a range of emotions — disbelief, denial, defiance and ultimately acceptance — she realizes what's important and what's superficial in her life. Is it Lindsay and her shallow friends? The dude-bro Rob or the nice-guy Kent? Her mother (Jennifer Beals), with whom she's had arguments recently? Or the troubled Juliet, still smarting from an incident earlier in the girls' shared past?

The story only works if the center holds, and Deutch anchors Sam's cyclical dilemma beautifully. Deutch ("Why Him?" and "Everybody Wants Some!!") channels Sam's confusion at her plight, and her growing realization of what she must do to set things right. It's a solid performance, better than teen-genre movies like this one usually get, and Deutch makes "Before I Fall" a watchable drama for teens of any age.


Twitter: @moviecricket —


'Before I Fall'

A high-school girl must relive one bad day, over and over, in this absorbing teen drama.

Where • Theaters everywhere

When • Opens Friday, March 3.

Rating • PG-13 for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images and language — all involving teens.

Running time • 98 minutes.






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