When hearing the genre teen drama one’s mind automatically thinks high school, cool kids and the awkward kid who is the underdog protagonist trying to fit into the superficial atmosphere they have to endure. Yes, these ideas are the basis for almost every teen drama film ever made, but Before I Fall is slightly different. While not being overwhelmed by cliches, they still remain somewhat present in the fabric of the narrative.
The film’s protagonist Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch – Vampire Academy and Why Him?) lives a sound life. She’s a part of the popular girl group who don’t come off as the generic popular cliques seen in other teen films like Mean Girls or Heathers. She’s involved in a car accident resulting in her reliving the day of her death every day for a week. This strange occurrence of deja vu causes her to think about the choices she has made in her life and allows her a second chance to fix her mistakes and hopefully break the cycle.
A refreshing aspect of the films casting not to be ignored is that each girl in the main friendship group is of a different nationality. Ally is Asian, Elody is Iranian, Sam and Lindsay are white caucasians which breaks the mold of stereotypical popular girls appearing very similar to each other. This uniqueness is unfortunately limited given the personalities and mannerisms of the girls are still a cliché highly detectable in any popular group seen in films. Each character has their insecurities, with the biggest theme of the film being ones legacy and how people are going to be remembered after high school. The presence of social media in the film makes the story current to today’s generation of teens. Snapchat is integrated into the plot, making it very relatable to the audience as that whole idea of documenting and sharing memories as well as being seen and having a presence on social media is a huge part of teenagers’ lives ensuring their daily encounters are worthwhile or at least making it appear like they are.
Despite the very nature of the plot basing itself in repetition, the script ensures each ‘day’ feels both varied and seperate . Situations occur from a different perspective each day keeping the viewer invested into what choices she decides to make and how her emotions spiral from confusion to frustration then to clarity. There is some irony in that the film is set within a high school given how repetitive and structured the school week usually feels regardless if you’re experiencing déjà vu or not.
The cinematography of the film was beautiful with a distinct colour scheme of various tones of blue and gray, which added to the dark subject matter of the film but also creating a sense of calmness against the chaos. Uniformity of the colour scheme is obviously very fitting to the repetitive nature of the plot demonstrating the attention to detail by director Ry Russo-Young whose independent films received critical acclaim at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
There is a peaceful vibe within the film with dim lit scenes using fairy lights or bedside table lamps to be the main source of lighting, this is juxtaposed with wide angle establishing shots of brightly lit exterior settings of the open forests and lakes which aid the film in creating a constant and diluted aesthetic even in the more dramatic of moments- reminiscent of Twilight in both its tone and environment.
The conclusion of the film is jarringly abrupt and fatally overdramatic. Instead of using its final moments as a chance to offer its audience closure, Before I Fall instead opts to close with a string of unanswered questions and propel into the world of utter cliche it had avoided for the majority of its duration. To its credit however, despite basing itself around the tropes of teen angst, bullying and popularity – it did use them in a meaningful way, demonstrating the importance of how interactions with others, negative or positive, can really leave a mark. Treating people with respect is of upmost importance according to the film’s message, especially when it feels like the same day is repeating over and over again.