I hated Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” adaptation for lots of reasons. You can read my rant in The 13 Reasons Why Issues No One is Talking About. But despite the travesty that that show was, my love of young adult stories prevails.
So now, there’s this young adult movie out on DVD. I wondered if it might sneak under everyone’s radar, but I saw it was actually one of the most popular rentals in Redbox right now. It’s called Before I Fall, and I just had to watch it.
I read the book first…
It’s actually based on a young adult novel by the same name. I read it a couple years ago – I actually remember bringing it with me to pass the time during the three hour glucose blood test I had to do during my first pregnancy. And the novel made those hangry hours go quickly.
I even remember thinking, as I read it, that it would make a good movie. And I daydreamed about adapting it myself into a script someday. Too late! But that’s okay, because:
It’s Pretty Darn Good
I made my husband watch it with me. He’s very much not into young adult girl movies. And yet, by the end, he was saying, “That was actually pretty good.”
It’s a Groundhog-Day-like story about a shallow 17-year-old who dies in a car crash, only to reawaken the next morning and go through the same day again. And again. She tries a variety of things different, hoping to change the outcome. But along the way, she transforms out of her petty shallowness.
I will say that the opening half hour or so is a bit insufferable. When she’s shallow, you want to smack her. I offered to let my husband off the hook and watch it myself, but he powered through like a champ. Heck, even I almost hated it in the beginning, and if I hadn’t already known where it was going, I might have been tempted to give up on it. But it’s definitely worth the watch by the end.
So, this movie is similar to “13 Reasons Why” in the issues it tackles: teen suicide, bullying, coming-of-age, and basic high school crap. And yet, these things are treated so much differently in this film. This story doesn’t just wallow in the misery. Instead, the character sees her own failings and transforms into a better person, which then improves the fate of certain other characters.
It’s funny, I actually commented to my husband that this movie and the novel it was adapted from disprove statements made by people who claim that reading is superior to watching movies or TV because of the vast amount of immoral material contained in movies/TV. Because this movie has some crap in it. But… I’d say the book was worse (and note, this is what they’re reading in public middle school, BTW…).
Except for some language, it’s mostly sexual issues. The movie contains discussion of losing one’s virginity, advice to use a condom, and a brief sex scene (we fast-forwarded, but I assume it didn’t actually go “all the way” despite appearing to be headed in that direction – unless it was unfaithful to the source material). There’s also some teen partying, including very brief shots of impure dancing. In case you’re wondering, all of this was in the book, but the book also contains a super squeamy make-out scene between a teacher and student – thank goodness they cut that out of the film.
So, it may not be morally perfect, but it’s certainly less problematic than the superficially similar Netflix series, especially in their very different conclusions. Glad as I am that this movie is popular right now in Redbox, I really wish it was garnering the kind of buzz that “13 Reasons Why” did. Even apart from its far-superior presentation of similar teen issues, Before I Fall is just way better done than the Netflix series. I would say, it’s a much better choice for the fellow YA fan.