Adapted from Jenny Downham’s 2007 novel Before I Die, Now Is Good is a rather safe and predictable story but Fanning, Considine and Williams keeps things watchable throughout.
Diagnosed with leukaemia four years ago, 17-year-old Tessa (Fanning) has accepted her illness is terminal and, rather than spend her remaining time sick, has stopped taking chemotherapy against her father’s (Considine) wishes. Determined to enjoy life while she’s still here, Tessa has made out a bucket list: shoplifting, have sex, take drugs etc. Best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) can help her out with the former while dishy next-door neighbour Adam (Irvine) is only too happy to help out with the latter. With a chin, a tight T-shirt, perfect hair and a motorbike, this dude is a suitable candidate, but falling in love wasn’t on her list…
Fanning hasn’t been around since 2010’s Twilight Eclipse but here, with her Jean Seberg hairstyle, looks like she has the makings of a mature actress. Despite having little more than one expression throughout, Fanning has enough weight to carry her first real dramatic role and manages to help Tessa avoid any ‘spoilt brat’ accusations. She’s in good company.
Estranged mum Olivia Williams, side-lined because she avoids getting involved with the nasty death goings on, comes into her own as she finally confronts what’s happening to her daughter. She might be sporting a distracting hairstyle but Williams shows again she can act anyone off the screen by doing as little as possible. If mum isn’t trying at all, dad is trying too hard. Considine is the best in show, which isn’t a stretch to believe, as the dad who is caught in an emotional netherworld: he wants his daughter to live a full life but he also wants her to need him and is a little jealous of the time she spends with the blow-in next door. ‘You won’t be happy until I’m sick on the couch with my head on your lap,’ Tessa throws at him and he hates to admit she’s right.
Despite the odd ‘Hollywood’ movie moment – one of which is quite touching despite the brazen criminal damage it entails – characters act like they would in such a situation: all are decent but can be selfish, needy and jealous too. And just because you’re dying it doesn’t mean you don’t have a sex drive. This is a human story.
Although there are no surprises to be found and writer-director Ol Parker (director of Imagine Me & You, writer of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), will never be accused of being stylish, there is no denying the emotional whack of the last act. Parker wrings every ounce of sentimentality out of every last scene. But that’s what he’s on board to do and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved when Fanning and Irvine plan a life they suspect they’ll never have.
3 out of 5 stars