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Movie Review – Before I Fall (2017)

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Mean Groundhogs Girls

Is Before I Fall a Groundhog Day movie? Yes.

Does it have anything to offer to the genre? Again, I’d say yes. I’ll explain why, but it’s hard not to not spoil the ending.

So, Before I Fall is Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day. But by the time Samantha realizes she is going to do a certain thing, it’s been telegraphed for awhile. If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ll predict the ending too.

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What’s good: we get a new resolution to the temporal day thing than ever we’ve seen before.

Stop now if you haven’t seen Before I Fall (spoilers ahoy)

In all the other Groundhog Day films, if the protagonist dies, the day resets. This is a thing in the classic Groundhog Day, plus Edge of Tomorrow, Naked, Happy Death Day 1& 2, Russian Doll, Source Code, and this year’s Palm Springs. Suicide isn’t an option. You just wake up and reboot. Here, the final death sticks.

The theme of sacrifice is important to the genre, but not fresh. You can keep being an a-hole and repeat the day, or grow into a compassionate person and move on. Sam, like Phil Connors before her, really needed this kick in the butt. She’s not a terrible person, but some of her friends are: their group mind is pretty terrifying to behold.

As Albus Dumbledore told us in Harry Potter, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

Somehow this message is rather wasted on the protagonist, who gets to have one fine day as a ‘Nice Girl’, and then dies for good. So what was the point?

I’ll tell you the point

Before I Fall wants to be a moving story of tolerance, compassion, and redemption. It gently hits those marks, but never really commits to them. It’s more of an excuse to watch high school girls be cruel. These young ladies make the original Mean Girls positively cuddly! It’s a little uncomfortable to be in the POV of these privileged teens, but the movie doesn’t do anything with that sensation. It’s just not smart enough.

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A few things worth mentioning in Before I Fall:

  • There’s a really great song playlist, using mostly diegetic (in-universe) music.
  • Surprise! Getting together with the ‘loser’ guy isn’t the way out of the loop.
  • Samantha doesn’t do anything very interesting with her ‘immortality’. She just goes to school each day. Her idea of outrageous hijinks is to try on a different look. I’m not kidding.
  • Science isn’t mentioned even in passing. Even ‘Tree’ in Happy Death Day (another Mean Groundhog Girl who dies a lot) takes on temporal mechanics. I’m not saying there should be some technobabble to explain the time shifts, but Sam could have tried cracking a textbook.
  • I’m talking myself out of liking this the more I write about it, which is too bad, as I did enjoy the film.

Yes, “Groundhog Day’ is a movie sub-genre

What makes Before I Fall different in the end is that the protagonist dies to settle the issue. I’ve been waiting for a GHD film to have someone never actually break the loop, so this is sort of on the way there.

I’m giving this a B- grade in the GHD subgenre. I liked it. I didn’t love it. It’s…average. Go watch Palm Springs, Happy Death Day, Edge of Tomorrow, or the original Bill Murray Groundhog Day for top notch temporal looping.

I’m the Groundhog Day expert on RunPee, so I’m picky about what belongs as a good addition to the burgeoning 30+ film/TV genre. I try to watch them all. Seriously. Some day I might be stuck in a temporal loop myself. Right now, during the 2020 pandemic, it certainly feels this way.

Seriously. Some day I might be stuck in a temporal loop myself. Right now, during the 2020 pandemic, it certainly feels this way.

Seriously. Some day I might be stuck in a temporal loop myself. Right now, during the 2020 pandemic, it certainly feels this way.

(Sorry about that. I should crack those textbooks myself.) Recommended for completionists if you love the GHD genre; otherwise it’s a bit meh.

Movie Grade: B-

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