By Troi Watts
Groundhog Day (1993) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) have set a high precedent for time-loop movies. Therefore, I was hesitant to get excited for Before I Fall. Most time-loop stories (including those in TV shows and movies) fall into the category of comedy or action adventure. How would a drama be entertaining without becoming too frustrating or melodramatic? Well, Before I Fall found a way.
Warning: potential spoilers ahead.
Before I Fall follows Sam Kingston, one of the popular girls in school who has no regard for the consequences of her actions. She and her friends bully several of their classmates and mainly worry about being with the hottest guys possible. They all attend a party where Juliet, an odd, terrorized classmate of theirs, shows up and calls the girls out on their behavior. The girls then yell at, throw beer on, and throw out Juliet. On their way home, the girls are apparently in a car accident, but instead of dying or simply waking up from the accident, Sam wakes up at home. Confused, she checks her phone and sees that it is once again February 12th. She goes through the exact same day over and over: school, the party, the accident, waking up on the same day. Why is this happening to her? Is it because she’s a bad person? How can she get out of this loop? By the end of the movie, Sam learns many important lessons.
This is a movie that audiences will not soon forget. The messages stick with you even after the credits roll. The emotions in Before I Fall are so strong, vivid, and resonant that I was left with the urge to be a better person. Juliet is the main victim in this movie, and seeing her struggles as well as her reactions to Sam’s eventual kindness is heartbreaking. The fact that Before I Fall is a realistic drama, not a comedy or sci-fi action film, makes it even easier to relate to the situation almost as if it’s happening to you. All in all, be prepared to cry a little while watching this movie.
Another interesting, original aspect of Before I Fall is the fact that it doesn’t necessarily adhere to the usual rules that make a time-loop movie. For example, in some time-loop movies, the day’s reset happens at a specific time. The day will always reset at that time unless the character solves the problem completely. The first reset for Sam sets up this expectation. Sam holds up her phone’s clock and waits for 12:38 to pass because she thinks that this time is connected to her reset. However, a minute passes and she doesn’t reset. Also, in one of her resets, Sam prevents her friends from even going to the disastrous party and doesn’t end up resetting until she falls asleep at about six in the morning. The idea that Sam’s actions can drastically affect the consequences of the day keeps Before I Fall from becoming overly predictable and boring. The audience is able to see that Sam really is making a difference, giving them something to invest in.
Despite this interesting “rule-breaking,” Before I Fall is definitely predictable. It’s a drama set in a high school environment, so you know that whatever Sam has to do to break the loop involves getting her mean-girl friends to stop picking on Juliet, the weird outcast. It can even be frustrating for those of us who aren’t jerks because it seems so obvious! You just want to yell at Sam and tell her to stop being a jerk to everyone. Then, as soon as the audience learns that Juliet has killed herself during one of the resets, the answer is obvious: Sam must save Juliet. This isn’t exactly shocking and doesn’t sound too hard (in terms of a movie, not real-life) so you can sit back and expect a happy ending. Of course she saves Juliet… right?
Dramas always run the risk of being cheesy and Before I Fall definitely has some cheesy aspects. The film opens with Sam narrating the fact that some people have many bright days ahead of them, but for her, this day was the only one left… *Insert eye-rolling here.* This narration happens a few times throughout the movie, including at the end when Sam explains that she has lived her day to the fullest and learned her lesson. This attempt to pull more emotion from the audience is completely unnecessary, distracting from the fact that Before I Fall already had some genuine emotion in it. Also, none of the information provided by the narration is relevant. The audience should already have an idea of what the movie is about, so Sam telling us that she is going to end up in a time-loop is redundant. My advice is to just ignore the narration entirely; you’ll enjoy the movie more that way.
The predictability and cheesiness of Before I Fall were not unexpected. What did surprise me was how well done this movie was overall. The fresh idea of having the movie not exactly follow the rules of a time-loop and the portrayal of genuine, touching emotion have made Before I Fall a movie I will not soon forget. Overall, this is worth a trip to your theater, but remember to bring tissues!