If you haven’t heard of Lauren Oliver’s novel Before I Fall, are you really a YA fan? The novel, which came out in 2010, gained a large following and is arguably one of Oliver’s best works. I didn’t read it for myself until about a week ago, right in time for the film release. I do that a lot. On purpose. So towards the end of my Spring Break (my last Spring Break, can you believe it??, my friends and I went to go see it. To be honest, I wish I had gone to see it by myself… They certainly do not appreciate YA like I do.
“Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”
For Samantha Kingston, there is no tomorrow — she dies on February 12th, in the passenger seat of her best friend’s car as it careens off the road. It all feels like a dream, though, because she wakes up the next day – only it isn’t really the next day, it’s the morning of February 12th, again. And at the end of that day, she dies, again. And she keeps dying and reliving that day, over and over, until she realizes that something needs to change. She may not be able to save herself, but she might be able to save someone else.
The casting in this film was really interesting. For such a popular YA novel, they cast mostly little-known actors. Strange choice, but not necessarily a bad one. The star role of Sam went to Zoey Deutch, who starred in a couple other YA adaptations (Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy) that weren’t necessarily the best films. This was the first time I really witnessed her acting and I thought she did great. She was really powerful as an actor and I think she was a good choice for Sam. She did a great job and I hope to see her in future roles
Sam’s best friend, Lindsay Edgecomb, is played by Halston Sage. She’s played a few minor roles in a few bigger movies (Bling Ring, Neighbors), but I personally remember her best from the adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns. Though I hate her character Lindsay, I can’t say she’s a bad actress. I thought she nailed the character. I think she’s gorgeous.
Let’s not forget Sam’s love interest, Kent McFuller, played by Logan Miller. He has starred alongside Halston in a couple movies and actually plays a character on The Walking Dead right now — we’ll see how long he lasts. I’m glad Logan played Kent. In the novel, I wasn’t as drawn to Kent as a was in the film. Miller did a great job and though he’s not the most attractive, star-football-player guy in high school, he’s sweet and thoughtful and kind, and I like that. Miller was an excellent choice.
And I must mention Elena Kampouris’s performance as Juliet Sykes. Though Elena is absolutely gorgeous (seriously she looks like a model), Juliet is a mess, and they definitely portrayed her as such. In the film, her hair is frazzled and sticks out about 5 inches from her face. When she screams at Sam and her friends at the party, she has strange mannerisms and overall seems like a wacky character. I get that Juliet is a troubled, bullied girl who has a mental break, but I’m not sure she needed to be depicted as she was in the film. It’s not that I think Elena is a bad actor or anything, I just think maybe the director chose to portray her in this strange way. Maybe you liked it, but I thought it was a little over-the-top. It felt…awkward, watching scenes with Juliet in them. I mean, Juliet is just a regular girl who gets bullied. I don’t think her character’s “strangeness” needed to be exaggerated to the degree that it was. What do you guys think?
Warning: This section will discuss the film’s faithfulness to the novel and could contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, I would definitely suggest scrolling past. If you haven’t seen the film yet and you want absolutely no information on the events in the film, I would scroll past. Basically: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
As my favorite professor always says, we should not compare the book to the movie because they are separate entities and therefore we cannot base our opinions on fidelity; we can say it was a bad movie, but we cannot say it was a bad movie because it was different from the book. I wholeheartedly agree with her, but I am only human, therefore I still compare the two and still enjoy studying the differences between them.
I was really excited for this film. I sped-read the book and eagerly waited to go see it in theaters. I was so excited, I didn’t stop and think about what a challenge it would be to adapt this novel. The majority of this novel, I realized, is internal dialogue. Those kinds of novels don’t translate easily onto the big screen. Sure, the film can be heavily narrated, but that kind of takes away from it all. So basically, it was up to the viewers to understand Sam’s predicament and experience her character arc. I think the film did a decent job at conveying this transition in Sam’s actions, but it’s hard to convey the change in her though process. There was some narration, which did help, but I think it is a lot easier to read than to view.
Nonetheless, I think they did an alright job sticking to the original text. They cut out some stuff and added other stuff, but it’s a 500-page book — it’s necessary. One of the biggest changes that I picked up on was with the character Anna Cartullo, played by Liv Hewson. In the novel, Anna is a girl dating a guy who already has a girlfriend — basically, she’s assisting in his cheating. Lindsay calls her “white trash” and bullies her. In the film, it was really interesting to see they changed her character to a lesbian. Lindsay still bullies her, but she calls her a “bull dyke.” In the novel, Anna wasn’t a big deal to me; in the film, I really enjoyed her as a character and I liked the inclusion of an LGBT character. I thought it was a nice alteration.
One thing I was a little sad about what how little we get of Kent and Sam’s budding romance. In the novel, she relives the day a couple times and has quite a few intimate moments with Kent. In the film, due to time constraints, she really only has one or two. Romance ins’t the main point of this story, but I would have enjoyed that relationship being flushed out a bit more. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for that kinda stuff (ha ha).
Another thing I was sad about was that they didn’t include the part about Sam witnessing the crash after trying to save Juliet and, since Sam was’t in the car, Elody died. I don’t know why I wanted to see that part, I just thought it was an interesting part of the novel. Like, not only does Juliet die, but Elody dies too. That scene was really shocking and I would have liked to see it in the movie.
I didn’t really have a lot to complain about, honestly. Did I love it? Not really. But I didn’t hate it. I would like to see it again, without my friends this time. When I am excited for a movie I know they’ll hate, I sit there worrying about what they think the entire time. Does anyone else do that? I just want to watch it by myself next time.
Novel or Film?
Novel, please. Like I said, this wasn’t the easiest story to adapt. I thought it was much more powerful and understandable as a novel. To me, the film seemed more like a feel-good teenagery movie with a message about bullying as an aside. The novel, on the other hand, was also about glorifying teenagedom, but I thought the moral of the story hit home much harder. Plus, like I said, you can read Sam’s thoughts and truly understand what she’s going through. Not a bad film, but a pretty great novel.