Before I Fall

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday March 3, 2017

Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage star in 'Before I Fall'
Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage star in 'Before I Fall'  

I had a high school English teacher who always used to yell out the same refrain after the bell rang and students would leave her class. "Make good choices!" she would always say, and her sentiments echoed back to me as I watched Ry Russo-Young's "Before I Fall," an adequate exploration into the powerful, almost mystical, forces behind the choices we make and the chain reactions of what can follow.

Rising talent Zoey Deutch ("Everybody Wants Some!!") stars as Samantha Kingston, a high school senior and popular girl who finds herself living the same day, February 12, over and over and over again.

On day one, she wakes up to her phone alarm (Big Data's "Dangerous," which you'll despise by the end of the film), finds a piece of origami on the bed that her little sister made for her, goes to school with her three friends, receives Valentine's Day roses (one from the nice boy who's loved her since third grade, one from her current boyfriend, a tool with a nose ring who just wants to take her virginity), joins her friends in tossing casual insults at a "sociopath" named Juliet Sykes, gets ready for a party, goes to party, dances, drinks and then joins her friends in once again tormenting Juliet Sykes, who shows up to the party and is humiliated and drenched in the drinks of cruel partygoers.

At 12:38 a.m. on the dot, something strikes the car of Sam and her friends as they drive home. The car flips, everything goes black and then that Big Data song kicks in for Sam to live the day all over again. Why? That's the mystery the film gives Sam and the audience to solve. Things go a little differently on day two, but the night still ends in a car crash. On day three, Sam convinces her friends to stay in and skip the party, but the night still ends in tragedy -- Juliet Sykes has killed herself. Every day that follows is just another variation on the last, almost always ending in either Sam's death, Juliet's suicide or both.

As Sam lives the same day over and over again, she picks apart the delusional perfection of her life as a popular girl, learning lessons about how the choices she's made have affected others. It's your standard high school fable, hitting all the expected notes: Speeches about how the experience of high school is just a blip on life's radar, blunt contrasts between cliques, and how bullying is bad, bad, bad.

The film's strongest offering, in fact, is its curriculum of morality. It encourages its audience to make good choices, and it should be applauded for such. The fact that it's a second-rate, teeny-bopper "Groundhog Day" shouldn't distract from the fact that it's trying to school a device-obsessed generation on the fact that there are actual humans in this world eager to be loved and told that they matter via methods more substantial than likes and retweets.

To see a teen drama with some substance behind it is a refreshing deviation from the norm, and I hope this film both finds an audience and gives promising filmmaker Ry Russo-Young more opportunities not often given to female directors in the industry (same can be said about Deutch and the film's screenwriter, Maria Maggenti).

It treats its characters with respect, and understands the trials and tribulations that high school can bring. While the movie itself may leave much to be desired (the "thrilling" finale is tragically set to an ill-equipped techno song), the simple mantra of "Make Good Choices" lifts "Before I Fall" to a degree worthy of some attention.