Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage in Before I Fall
BEFORE I FALL (Ry Russo-Young). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (March 3). See listing. Rating: NNN
Opening theatrically just a couple of weeks after playing TIFF Next Wave, Before I Fall is a high school variation on Groundhog Day, and it works pretty well.
Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) stars as Samantha Kingston, a small-town mean girl who finds herself inexplicably reliving the same day over and over again after she and her clique experience a terrible car accident. Struggling to understand what’s happening, Sam starts examining her relationships to her family, a friend-zoned classmate (Logan Miller) and a bullied girl (Elena Kampouris) and gradually becomes a better version of herself.
Director Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks) and screenwriter Maria Maggenti (The Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love) turn Lauren Oliver’s YA novel into a moody character study in glossy packaging. Cinematographer Michael Fimognari has mostly worked on horror films like Oculus and The Lazarus Effect, and he imbues the action with eerie foreboding even when things are at their most ordinary. It’s a clever touch that immediately isolates Before I Fall from the teen movie pack: something else is going on here.
But Russo-Young and Maggenti aren’t willing to stray too far from the safety of the genre. You can feel them taking the edge off Sam’s mean-girlness, making her more an onlooker than an instigator.
Deutch’s textured performance still sells Sam’s emotional arc, and younger moviegoers will find a lot to mull over in the narrative’s key questions, especially those who have yet to watch Bill Murray go through the same existential ordeal.