“A girl dying of leukemia compiles a list of things she’d like to do before passing away. Topping the list is her desire to lose her virginity.” My initial sarcastic sentimental thought (“sounds profound”) was followed up by “that actually sounds familiar”. Turns out I had read the book recently, which is actually called ‘Before I Die’ by Jenny Downham – and also proves my guilty pleasure of enjoying a good tearjerker.
That rather curt synopsis actually does very much cover this movie; Tessa (annoyingly played by Dakota Fanning, as apparently there are no good young English actresses around) is 16, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has come to the end of the road in her life. I wouldn’t say that losing her virginity is topping her list, according to the scrawls on her bedroom wall that was ‘buy a flat’, or maybe that came in second to ‘go on a date’, but ‘have sex’ was most definitely a few lines down. Anyway, Tessa decides she is going to do what she wants, before she dies – why they changed the name of this story, I’ll never know.
Before she knows it, Tessa has stumbled across the boy next door, Adam (Jeremy Irvine, who is as wooden in this as he was in War Horse) and fallen in love. He helps her on her journey to accepting her fate and also scoring off a few of those to-dos on her list. The movie doesn’t actually change much from the book, which is refreshing, but unfortunately sometimes what has been written in a novel should just stay there and that is exactly the case here.
It is actually an incredibly sad and moving story – it is heartbreaking that her Dad just will not give up on finding a cure for his daughter, her brother is scared of saying goodbye incase it makes her die and her Mum just doesn’t have a clue. However, sub-standard performances and the fact that Fanning doesn’t act her best, seemingly too afraid to lose her accent if she lets go, really let this story down. She also stands out with her uppity Downton Abbey-esque drones while the rest of her friends and family are a bit more laid back and Brighton like, where the film is set.
The pros? The soundtrack is pretty cool, Kaya Scodelario who plays Tessa’s best friend Zoey provides a bit of comic relief and they don’t change the ending but that would be pretty impossible… The cons? Fanning’s accent, chunks of the book are missing and…well, they don’t change the ending. Be prepared for the sudden emotional outpouring that you will not be able to contain. You have been warned…
Now Is Good is out 19th September.