Jenny Downham’s 2007 novel Before I Die, about a seventeen year old girl who decides to stop her treatment for leukaemia, does not seem an obvious choice for a movie adaptation, but sometimes a story is worth telling. With a slightly more positive title change to Now Is Good, the directorial reins have been handed to British screenwriter and director Ol Parker, with American Dakota Fanning in the lead role as Tessa.
Parker, whose most recent success was as a writer for 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, had directed only one film before this. His 2005 rom-com Imagine Me and You failed to ignite the box office, and was not a critical success. Seven years on, Parker makes his return with a film that he says he ‘really cares about’ – and it shows. The direction is well done and the editing excellent. Filming in such a pleasant part of the country helped to provide a stunning natural setting, with the coast and country almost painted onto the screen.
The majority of the film is spent watching Tessa try and tick off the items on her bucket list with the help of her best friend Zoey (played by Skins star, Kaya Scodelario). Zoey is Tessa’s partner-in-crime for the majority of the items on her list, such as drug taking and breaking the law. There is one Zoey cannot help with though: losing her virginity. Step forward convenient new neighbour Adam, played by War Horse’s Jeremy Irvine. They find solace in each other’s company, and their doomed relationship grows as Tessa’s health deteriorates. This is a cause of great consternation for Tessa’s controlling father, played excellently by Paddy Considine, who is desperate to look out for his increasingly frail daughter, but is constantly railroaded by Tessa’s determination to be with Adam.
Despite the potential for this to really educate about leukaemia in young adults, the focus is more on the relationship between Tessa and Adam than Tessa’s battle with the terminal illness, which gives you an idea as to the target audience. That is not to say the scenes where the leukaemia is tackled are not difficult to watch (there is a nosebleed scene that sticks in the memory), but it does not go far enough into demonstrating the harsh realities of terminal cancer, which leaves you wondering whether this is an opportunity missed.
Ol Parker’s second attempt at directing a movie is an improvement on his first, and Dakota Fanning performs admirably in a tough role, with her gradual transformation being quite remarkable. A story that is more of a tragic, teen love story than a hard-hitting look at coping with teenage terminal illness, and despite the clichés of teen romance that fill the script, Now Is Good is a film that could have even the most cynical of cinemagoers reaching for the tissues.
Source: Candid Magazine