I was left completely speechless after watching Ry Russo- Young’s film “Before I Fall”. Based off of Lauren Oliver’s popular Young Adult novel by the same name, Russo-Young peeled the words off the pages and brought them to life on the big screen. A story of fate and what it truly means to live your life, “Before I Fall” holds many powerful and complex messages that leave viewers contemplating the true intent of many of these messages. It certainly was a powerfully heavy movie that is not for those of faint heart.
Samantha (Sam) Kingston is our protagonist in the movie, but she doesn’t start off that way. Portrayed by Zoey Deutch, Sam is the picture-perfect senior in high school. She seemingly has it all with the gorgeous looks, popular friends and jock boyfriend, but Sam soon discovers that her life may not be all that she made it out to be. On February 12, Sam wakes up ready to meet the excitement of what is known as “cupid day” at her school. Surrounded by her best friend, queen-bee Lindsay (Halston Sage), Sam prepares for a day of roses, not-so-secret admirers, a party and the loss of her virginity to her boyfriend Rob (Kian Lawley). However, once they arrive at the party, Sam’s plans begin to unravel as a series of events send her into a Sisyphean tailspin that she is dreadfully unprepared for. On the way home from the party, the girls hit an obstacle in the road and experience a fatal car crash. It seems inevitable that Sam would not survive, but seconds later she re-awakes in her bedroom on the morning of February 12th.
The film presents an interesting analogy to the Greek mythological figure of Sisyphus through Sam’s struggles. Every morning when Sam starts off the school day, her teacher begins the lesson by writing the name “Sisyphus” on the board before being interrupted by the delivery of Val-o-grams. Sisyphus is an ancient Greek mythological figure who was condemned to roll a boulder up a steep hill for eternity. Every time that Sisyphus would roll his boulder to the top of the hill, it would roll back down and he would be forced to complete the task again. Sisyphus was punished for his immense hubris, and although we don’t get a whole lot of detail or focus on Sisyphus in the film, the directors give you just enough to create a connection between the myth and the film’s plot. Sam was clearly plagued by the arrogance and entitlement that so many millennials possess, and that attitude was her hubris, which ultimately led her to her Sisyphean task of reliving the same day over and over again.
“Before I Fall” creates a tragic setting of high school where popularity rules and makes a powerful comment on the relentless bullying that many students face. An interesting twist is that our protagonist is not the underdog victim of the bullying who finally triumphs in the end, but rather one of the bullies who is forced to confront the effects of her behavior.
Throughout the film, Sam learns that it is never too late to fix your mistakes, as she takes it upon herself to use each repeat of February 12th to fix each of the broken aspects of her life. Watching Sam go through the endless cycle of one day and seeing the different approaches that she takes each time, we see that every day we get is a gift and we never know which will be our last. The film clearly communicates the message that every day should be lived to its fullest, and your actions in each of those days matter. It hints to the idea that all of our fates are intertwined, showing us through the plot that our actions can have a massive impact on the lives of those who surround us.
This film is definitely one that hits home with current high school students, especially with the relevance of many of the topics and morals covered. With the powerful, jaw-dropping final scene in the film, the last question is posed: if you knew it was your last day, what would you do?