culture by Philbert Dy

‘Before I Fall’ Gets Problematic

Serious ideas are underserved in this movie about a girl stuck in a time loop.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsBefore I Fall follows teenager Sam (Zoey Deutch) on Friday, February 12. She is part of the popular crowd, and she plays that role. She is complicit in the bullying of certain students, and doesn’t pay much attention to guys who aren’t in her social circle. That night, coming from a party, she and her friends get into a car accident. But Sam wakes up in her bed unharmed, and it is once again the morning of Friday, February 12. It becomes clear when it happens again that she is stuck in a time loop. Sam, stuck reliving the same day, is forced to reconsider her situation and her relationships in order to find a way to escape this seemingly eternal fate.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.34.43 PMThe underlying logic of this premise lies in the idea that for certain teenagers, high school can feel like living in a time loop. Sam is not one of those teenagers, as she is popular and privileged enough to not feel the monotony of high school. In being forced into this strange, supernatural situation, she is granted the ability to empathize with those who are worst off in the social pecking order. This ultimately becomes a story about a tangential bully learning that her actions have consequences, that the hurtful things that she takes part in may actually hurt people.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.27.57 PMIt is a lesson worth repeating, but it does seem ludicrous that it would have to take this kind of dramatic development for this one young woman to learn that basic fact. This might have been easier to swallow if she was made out to be some sort of real sociopath, that she is the kind of person completely blind to the suffering of others. But the movie is careful to make her out to be the most sensible one among her group; the one most reluctant to take part in their awful behavior. That she would have to live the same day over and over to just take that extra step into human decency seems excessive.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.31.37 PMThe film adopts a very serious tone that seems to completely disregard the absurdities taking place. It fashions itself a serious meditation on bullies and bullying, but it falls well short of that goal. It doesn’t seem to fully consider the implications of some of the things it depicts. Its ideal guy, for example, is someone who keeps telling the film’s protagonist that he basically knows her better than she knows herself. There is a creepy element to the film’s romantic subplot that is played purely as fantasy, and that gets problematic. And then, in resolving its primary conflict, the film emerges with a very sketchy and muddled stance on suicide.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.31.05 PMAnd the whole thing just feels inert. We only see a few of the loops, so the film doesn’t even really take advantage of the primary elements of its premise. We don’t really get to see the struggle to get things right. We don’t get to see Sam fail enough to make the whole structure feel justified. The movie ends up not asking a lot from its actors. The growth in the main character is so stilted that Zoey Deutch, who is generally a very capable actress, ends up feeling pretty strange. When her character arrives at major realizations, the actress comes off as space-y.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.30.05 PMBefore I Fall avoids all the possible silliness that comes with its particular form of storytelling, but at the same time, it doesn’t take the things it says seriously enough. It takes very serious topics that deserve real consideration and underserves its ideas with a narrative that concentrates too much on standard YA elements. It is easy enough to recognize the good intentions that must have been involved in the crafting of its story, but the execution is so odious that the whole thing goes the other way.

BEFORE I FALL IS NOW PLAYING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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