Review by Heidi Vella

This teenage tearjerker starring two of Hollywood’s future mega-stars, Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irvine, meddles with your expectations from the start. Adapted from Jenny Downham’s novel Before I Die – no wonder they changed the title – it’s about 17-year-old assertive Tessa Scott (Dakota Fanning) who is dying from terminal leukaemia. With time running out she writes a bucket list of things she wants to experience before she dies; high on the list is losing her virginity.

At first thoughts, Now Is Good sounds like an unconvincing Hollywood mush of a movie but once you consider it is a British movie set with the backdrop of breezy Brighton and was adapted for the screen and directed by Ol Parker, who also wrote the screenplay for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (responsible for the influx in the grey army attending the cinema), that it also stars British independent film favourite Paddy Considine plus Olivia Williams and its principle cinematographer is Erik Wilson, who also worked on Tyrannosaur, The Imposter and Submarine, Now Is Good seems like something different.

The movie opens with Tessa rejecting the advances of a boy whose foreplay skills leave something to be desired. Clearly popping your cherry in this way isn’t ideal, so Tessa energetically runs away down a Brighton Street leaving her friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario of Skins) in post-coital sleep on the sofa. At first the only real evidence we have that Tessa is terminally ill is her short hair and alabaster skin, plus the touching concern and frustration from her devoted father (Considine). Their relationship is one of the most touching and genuine elements of the film. It’s heartbreaking to watch her father grappling with his overwhelming need to protect his daughter while also coming to terms with her efflorescent womanhood and impending death. But it isn’t the main focus of this movie. That’s Tessa’s blossoming relationship with the impossibly handsome Adam (Irvine). Adam is ridiculously mature and sensitive for a boy of his age and, with some hesitation, he embarks on a doomed love affair with Tessa, despite only having lost his father the previous year.

Dakota is fabulous as the sassy, assertive and fatalistic Tessa. According to Parker she chased him for the role, actively pursuing him for some time before he decided to cast her, he having imagined a British actress in the role. Tessa and Adam’s relationship is endearing on the surface but it soon descends into an improbable and overly romanticised relationship – think fireworks shooting in the air as they have their first proper kiss. Parker wisely decides to skim over the loss of Tessa’s virginity but instead focuses on their growing relationship and her inevitable physical decline. There aren’t many real examples of Tessa’s physical decline, Parker says he deliberately avoided this but the few there are create enough impact.

Now is Good is obviously clichéd despite its credentials suggesting it could be something else; Parker could have chosen to depict the more bleak realistic story of a dying teenager but instead he incorporates classic moments of British humour – Now is Good is funny – with genuine moments of sadness, while juxtaposing the beauty of falling in love for the first time while also anticipating your own death. By the end it’s incredibly sad and, just to warn you, you may want to pack some hankies!

A peppering of British humour, Considine, Fanning and a rainy Brighton backdrop save this movie from mushy, clichéd oblivion.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Film Juice

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