“Maybe for you there is a tomorrow…. But for some of us there is only today. And what you do matters.”
In Before I Fall, high school senior Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) lives the same day over and over. She is popular. She has a hunk of a boyfriend. She and her friends have a good time. But something just isn’t right. So Sam’s day keeps resetting. If you think this sounds like a YA version of Groundhog Day, you need to keep in mind that this is not a comedy and does not have a happy ending. In the only class we see her in, her teacher is trying to lead a discussion about Sisyphus, who must spend eternity rolling a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back. That is certainly what Sam is experiencing.
Even though Sam’s life is going pretty well, when she begins living this day over and over, she begins to see the cracks in her happiness. Her friends may not be as good as she thinks they are. Her boyfriend may not be the love of her life. She may not treat her family with the love and respect they deserve. Some of the people on the periphery—a boy who has a crush on her, a gay classmate, a lonely classmate—may deserve her attention and understanding. All of this become important because the day she keeps reliving always ends with tragedy. Are there clues along the way that will give her a chance to prevent the tragedies—and at what cost?
Because this is a story of teenagers, there is a lot of angst. It is an age in which things come to seem very important. (It has always been so. Every generation experiences this discovery of a world that seem to matter deeply as they move into adulthood.) For Sam, this day she is reliving provides her a chance to examine the world she lives in—and also to examine herself. As she repeats the day over and over she discovers that her clique is something of a mean girl group. She notices the way she and the others emotionally bully others. She also begins to move from being self-absorbed (as her friends are) to caring about the people around her—even some who no one else will care for.
There is an undertone in the film about freedom. Sam and her friends seem to have freedom. They are experiencing life fully. Their parents are not restricting them. But for Sam, there is a discovery that freedom may involve something other than doing what you want. Sometimes freedom means moving away from what you want. So Sam must decide how to use her freedom. The Apostle Paul often wrote of freedom, but also about how we may use that freedom to enslave ourselves. Perhaps for Sam her desire for popularity and belonging to the right group has taken away her true freedom. So she finds herself trapped in the ever-repeating day. Her real freedom will only come when she is willing to give up all the things she thought she wanted.
Photos courtesy of Open Road Pictures.