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.
“Is it the whole dying-girl thing, or do you have something original planned?” When the leukemia-afflicted protag of “Now Is Good” foxes a radio interviewer with this question, she could be asking the same thing of the filmmakers. Writer-helmer Ol Parker’s warmhearted, well-acted sophomore feature delivers a bit of both, spiking the Nicholas Sparks-style teen “Love Story” plot with refreshing flashes of sex, drugs and Ellie Goulding songs. Young auds should respond sympathetically when the pic bows in Blighty, with the pretty pairing of a British-accented Dakota Fanning and rising star Jeremy Irvine lending moderate international appeal.
Adapting Jenny Downham’s book Before I Die director and screenwriter of Now is Good, Ol Parker, could have easily fallen into the tempting trap of extracting every ounce of schmaltz that the poster might suggest. Telling the story of Tessa (Dakota Fanning), a 17 year old girl who, having undergone treatment for leukaemia for four years, has decided to let the inevitable happen and live out her remaining time ticking off things on her ‘to-do’ list before she dies. The list is a typical teenage wish list which includes doing illegal drugs and having sex.
THERE’S nothing like a terminal illness for firing up a sappy romantic drama.
Which is probably what attracted the writers of Love And Other Drugs, The Last Song and A Little Bit Of Heaven to this increasingly popular genre.
Thankfully, this latest entrant is a little less cloying than most.
Much of that is down to a gritty turn from former child star Dakota Fanning.
As Tessa Scott (Fanning) bravely deals with leukemia, opting to stop treatment leaving her with mere months to live, she makes a list of things she wants to do before it is too late. Amongst the varied things on her depressingly early bucket list are shop lifting, taking illegal substances but at top of the list is to have sex and young Tessa realises her virginity isn’t quite as easy to lose as she first suspected. Meanwhile, Tessa’s over protective dad (Considine) and her unreliable mother (Williams) must deal with the inevitable loss in their own way. To further complicate matters is Adam (Irvine), the boy quite literally next door, who takes a shine to Tessa. But with time running out will she be able to fall in love with Adam knowing what limited future they’ll have together? This is further complicated by Adam’s having to deal with a tragic loss of his own, is he able to commit to someone he knows he will also lose?
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.
If you want your heart broken between sobbing your tear ducts dry and flurries of laughter, Now is Good is perfect viewing.
Dakota Fanning plays Tessa, a 17-year-old Brighton-ite dying from a form of leukaemia, who is desperate to lose her virginity, break the law and have her name written on the world. Writer and director Ol Parker’s script tracks her last months as she tumbles through her bucket list, making things up and worrying everyone as she goes along.