Time loop films are difficult to do because Groundhog Day did it perfectly and everything since then has been one version or another of the comedy. Case in point, Before I Fall is a dramatic teenage version of it. While that in itself isn’t a problem, the film follows the same beats as the classic and doesn’t provide enough variety to make it worthwhile. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not a very good one, either.
It’s February 12, Cupid Day, and popular girl Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is preparing to receive plenty of roses throughout the day at her high school. Same goes for her friends, Lindsay (Halston Sage), Izzy (Erica Tremblay), and Allison (Cynthy Wu). Samantha even plans on losing her virginity to her cool boyfriend that evening at a party. But events happen and the group end up leaving the party early, only to get into a massive car accident on their way home. Samantha then wakes to to find herself not in the hospital but in her own bed on the morning of February 12 again. As she repeats the same day over and over again, she learns more about herself and what true friendship is in the hopes of ending the loop and moving on with her life.
Whereas Groundhog Day was a comedy, Before I Fall is a straight up young adult drama that sets to tackle issues about bullying. Samantha and her friends are not nice people. They’re particularly mean to Juliet (Elena Kampouris), a disheveled girl who mostly keeps to herself. Samantha’s loop revolves around her trying to become a better person, but I personally just don’t see it.
None of these characters are likeable at the start and they don’t improve much by the end, either. They’re all preppy rich kids living this ultra lavish lifestyle. It’s difficult to connect with or even feel sorry for Samantha. Yes, she becomes the good person she needs to be in order to free herself, but it feels more like an immediate change rather than an actual development over the course of the film.
The fact that we already know exactly how things are going to play out too makes Before I Fall rather boring as well. She goes through the same repetitive motions each time. The first couple of loops are awkward as she figures out what is happening. Then she tries to find an easy fix. Then there’s a montage of loops featuring her doing things that are out of character. Then she gets tired of the loops and finally figure out what she needs to do to truly be free. There’s nothing new or inventive about the film. It’s the same old format with just a couple different adjectives in the story.
Before I Fall isn’t a terrible film. The performances are actually pretty good given the story and characters, especially Zoey Deutch. She’s able to add some emotional weight to Samantha that the other characters just don’t have. To the film’s credit, it also doesn’t pull any punches at the end. I just wish the script was better.