Review by Jack Foden

Titanic. The Notebook. Up. The list goes on, unlike the extent of my emotional reaction to each. Partly due to there clearly being room for Jack on the debris after the great ship sank, partly as an animated character who owns a balloon house is vaguely inconceivable, partly due to being only able to focus on Rachel McAdams, and partly because I am a heartless teenager, I was unable to cry. And yet, apparently Now is Good, coming to cinemas in September and produced by BBC Films, has achieved the impossible, which I shamelessly admit: to make a supposedly callous teen cry, not once, not twice but a stunning three times.

This is not a major blockbuster film, it lacks explosions, shooting and thrills, so if that’s your conventional film, stop reading. Instead, Now is Good, written and directed by Ol Parker, recent screenwriter of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and based on Jenny Downham’s novel ‘Before I die’, depicts the tale of Tessa, played by the brilliant Dakota Fanning, a selfish yet down-to-earth teenage girl, who after facing a battle with leukemia for several years is told it is terminal, and so decides to stop the treatment, and face the unavoidable- however not without living the accelerated life of any teenager.

From taking drugs, to attempting the loss of her virginity, Tessa forms a conceivable, if not obvious list- that Parker described as conveying ‘a demand, an insistence to live in the present’- and is resolute on carrying out with the aid of her rebellious friend Zoey, (Kaya Scodelari), until she meets Adam, portrayed by Jeremy Irvine, and falls in love in her final months in the vibrant city of Brighton. Prone to playing younger characters, Fanning succeeds in demonstrating a vastly more mature and intense role, whilst Irvine receives another opportunity to convey his talent after his debut in War Horse- although the character was arguably superficial, and even more annoyingly perfect- only Liam Neeson can pull off that (perfect- not superficial).

Parker, thank God, manages to avoid clichés and any painful corniness that tragic films such as these seem to exude, and is in fact innovative in its approach to such a grim theme. Whilst a great deal of the film is optimistic as to the potential of life, with flares of genuine humour to ease our incertitude, the cancer lingers as an ominous presence, striking horrifically at several occasions to force an unstable atmosphere, in which, in vain, you resist trusting the characters, in light of the inevitable (that is, of course, her death- hardly a spoiler).

Nevertheless, Parker clearly understands the ambivalence for the protagonist-teen, between love for her family as their time rapidly diminishes and rage towards her parents, played brilliantly by Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams, the former obsessing over cures, and the latter retaining an impenetrable state of denial.

In spite of the ultimately bleak ending, a fundamental optimism and a rather inspiring fulfillment is instilled in the audience, with a gritty realism in the film effacing any illusions and misconceptions as to what such a burden entails. This ‘paradoxically totally celebratory’ film, though not particularly ingenuous as a story, is mesmerizing and guarantees the necessity of a box of tissues, in that the story lies not events, but in the depth of relationships between the various characters in light of the inevitability of death. Ultimately, it leaves the audience exhausted by the sheer intensity of an array of emotions, from joy to grief, and begs the question, ‘What’s on your list?’- that is, of course, once you’ve successfully hidden your tears as I did.

Now Is Good is released on September 19

Source: Blog Independent

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