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Before I Fall Is Groundhog Day Starring High School Mean Girls

Imagine a Mean Girls/Groundhog Day mashup with a dark, YA twist and you’ve got director Ry Russo-Young’s Before I Fall. An adaptation of bestselling author Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, the movie stars Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy) as Sam, a popular high school senior whose charmed existence has allowed her to slide into casual cruelty towards her less cool classmates, kid sister, and parents. But that all changes after a late-night car accident ends Sam’s life… sort of.

Post-crash, Sam wakes up at home, safe in her own bed. Letting herself believe it was all a bad dream, she stumbles through another school day eerily similar to the one before—down to the awkward pre-Valentine’s Day cupid-grams, the cafeteria confrontations, and the bro-y, drunken boyfriend who soaks her t-shirt in beer later that night. Sensing what’s coming, Sam attempts to avoid the inevitable, and fails. But the next morning, the clock is once again reset.

The film follows Sam as she tries to alter her behaviour with the hope of altering her fate. But as the days go by, each of them the same as the one before, she comes to a realization—she does have the power to change things, but maybe not in the way you’d expect.

Before I Fall, Russo-Young’s fourth feature (and her first since 2012’s Nobody Walks, an indie drama starring John Krasinski and Rosemarie DeWitt that was co-written by Lena Dunham), demonstrates an ability to bring a fresh aesthetic to the crowded YA genre.

This is not a Disney film, nor is it one with a pure-hearted heroine on whose shoulders the fate of humanity rests à la Hunger Games, Divergent, The 5th Wave, etc, etc, etc. Sam is a self-centred (read: real) teen with real (read: inconsequential to the wider world) teen problems set squarely in the first world. You hate her and then you don’t hate her. She’s a brat and then she isn’t. The nuances in her character keep the repetition that comes with reliving the same day alongside her a dozen times from being boring. Then there’s the irresistible voyeurism that comes from peering in on rich kid life in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest—reason enough to see the movie.

Before I Fall premiered at Sundance and screened as part TIFF’s Next Wave program. It hits theatres on March 3. Check out this clip of wtar Zoey Deutch and director Ry Russo-Young on InnerSpace last week: