One of my favorite films of 2017 was Before I Fall, which was kind of a combination of Mean Girls, Groudhog Day, and Happy Death Day. Two years later, it remains one of my favorite movies, even if I do end up crying whenever I watch it.
The film begins with an ordinary teenager named Samantha Kingston (Zooey Deutsch) waking up on February 12th. We follow her throughout her day and watch her deal with family, friends, teachers, and all the drama that goes along with all of that. We meet her boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley) and we automatically know that she needs to dump his jock ass. (Whenever we hear him glibly say, “Love ya,” it’s like nails on a chalkboard.) We all know that Sam should be with Kent (Logan Miller), who is sweet and sensitive and gives her a white rose for Cupid’s Day. We also meet and get to know her friends, Allie (Cynthia Wu), Elody (Medalion Rahimi), and especially Lindsay (Halston Sage). While being a close friend to Sam, Lindsay is still the stereotypical popular, mean girl, the one who decides who is accepted and who is destined to forever to be an outsider. Sam, on the other hand, is not a mean girl (or, at the very least, she’s a not-as-mean girl). Instead, she’s the girl who simply goes along with what everyone else is doing. She may not instigate any bullying but she doesn’t do anything to stop it either.
February 12th was the night that Sam had been planning on losing her virginity to Rob but Rob pretty much ruins that by getting drunk and acting like an asshole. Instead, at a party at Kent’s house, Sam watches as Lindsay humiliates an outsider named Juliet (Elena Kampouris). After leaving the party, Sam, Lindsay, Elody, and Allie drive down a dark road. They listen to music. They talk about how stupid everyone at the party was. And, eventually, the car crashes and….
Suddenly, Sam’s waking up in her bedroom! And it’s February 12th all over again! That’s right, Sam is in a time loop, destined to continually relive the final day of her life until she makes things right. In the 2010 novel that this film is based on, author Lindsay Olivier makes it pretty clear that each time Sam relives her day, she’s going through another stage of grief, moving from denial to acceptance. While the film doesn’t make that point quite as clearly as the book, it does do a good job of showing us how, each time that Sam is forced to relive that day, she comes out of it as a changed person. She discovers that Rob wasn’t worthy of her love and that Kent was. She discovers that her family wasn’t as terrible as she assumed. And, perhaps most importantly, she learns that being a friend does not mean excusing casual cruelty.
Watching Before I Fall is always an emotional experience for me. A lot of it is because I can relate to Sam. In many ways, back in high school, I was Sam. But, even beyond that, the theme of Before I Fall is universal. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your background may be. It doesn’t matter if you were popular in high school or if you were one of the outsiders. Everyone — every single one of us — has done something that they regret. All of us have one day that we wish we could travel back to and do things differently.
Well-directed by Ry Russo-Young and featuring a lot of beautiful Canadian scenery (the film was shot in British Columbia and Vancouver), Before I Fall is a poignant and touching film. Zooey Deutch, Halston Sage, Cynthia Wu, and Medalion Rahimi are all believable as longtime friends and, to the film’s credit, no one — not even Lindsay — can be reduced to a mere stereotype. Before I Fall is a film about regret, denial, anger, acceptance, and finally, peace. No wonder it makes me cry.