Before I Fall
Open Road Films
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, bullying, sexuality, violent images, profanity and underage drinking
Bittersweet Tale Of Redemption Gives Deceased Teen Chance To Relive Last Day Over And Over
Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch) was a spoiled-rotten brat the night she perished in a tragic car crash. First of all, she and her little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) were lucky enough to be raised in the lap of luxury by a couple of loving parents (Jennifer Beals and Nicholas Lea).
Secondly, the recently deceased 17-year-old was not only leaving behind a handsome boyfriend in Rob (Kian Lawley), but an ardent admirer in Kent (Logan Miller), a Platonic friend she’d taken for granted since grade school. Sam was also pretty popular at Ridgeview High School where she was a member of an exclusive clique along with her three BFFs, Liz (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu).
The snobby quartet took delight in teasing classmates like lesbian Anna (Liv Hewson) and reclusive outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouri). So, Sam would think nothing of participating in such mean girl rituals as dumping drinks on Juliet while calling her a “psycho bitch.”
However, after the accident, she was afforded an unusual opportunity to reconsider her cruel behavior when, instead of proceeding to the hereafter, her spirit miraculously reentered her body. Upon opening her eyes, she realized that it was again dawn on February 12th, and that she was about to relive the same day again.
In fact, Sam’s about to experience February 12th over and over, while learning valuable lessons in tolerance each go-round. Thus unfolds Before I Fall, a bittersweet tale of redemption based on Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel of the same name.
At first blush, the picture’s premise reads rather reminiscent of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993), although this is a drama as opposed to a comedy, and it’s set on February 12th instead of the 2nd. The movie was directed by Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), who puts a fresh enough spin on the familiar theme to make you forget Groundhog Day after 15 minutes.
Kudos aplenty are in order for Zoey Deutch who’s incredibly convincing as Sam in a demanding role which calls for the exhibition of a considerable acting range over the course of the story. Her supporting cast delivers stellar work selling an escapist fantasy which might otherwise fall apart oh so easily.
A déjà vu-driven, surrealistic morality play designed to leave you deep in reflection and weeping as you walk up the aisle.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 99 minutes
A United Kingdom
Fox Searchlight Pictures / Harbinger Pictures
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs
Historical Drama Recounts Scandalous Interracial Romance
Upon the untimely death of his father, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) was crowned the King of Bechuanaland at the tender age of four. But his Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) assumed the reins of power until the heir apparent could complete his education.
While studying law in Great Britain, Seretse fell in love at first sight with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a lowly clerk at Lloyd’s of London. Their whirlwind romance ignited an international firestorm of controversy because of their color, not their class, differences.
For, he was black and she was white, and this was 1946, a time of strict racial segregation. So, the couple’s scandalous liaison was met with resistance both in England and back of Africa.
Although they found themselves assailed with racial slurs like “slut” and “savage” while out on dates, the hostility only served to intensify their feelings for one another. Meanwhile, Seretse was threatened with the loss of his throne, since Bechuanaland was a protectorate of neighboring South Africa, a white supremacist nation. Nevertheless, he got down on one knee and proposed to Ruth and the two married just a year after they met.
Unfortunately, major impediments were subsequently placed between the exiled young monarch and his governing, and that struggle is the subject of A United Kingdom. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film was shot on location in Botswana, which is what the country has called itself since gaining independence in 1966.
Because the movie telescopes tightly on Ruth and Seretse’s relationship, its success or failure is destined to turn on the performances of co-stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The good news is that they’re very talented thespians capable of disappearing into their roles while generating the requisite chemistry to make their characters’ enduring affair convincing.
The film’s only flaw is that it feels a bit rushed, as if director Asante had a long checklist of touchstones from Colour Bar (the 432-page book it’s based on) she was determined to shoehorn into the encyclopedic biopic. Nonetheless, the final product is a praiseworthy production reminiscent of another tale of racial intolerance recently in theaters.
Let’s say, “Loving,” African style!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 111 minutes
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