Director: Ol Parker
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine, Olivia Williams.
Based on Jenny Downham’s novel Before I Die, Now is Good tells the story of stubborn teenager Tessa (Fanning), a terminal leukaemia patient who, after four difficult years, has opted to end all treatment. In her final months, she compiles a bucket list, topped by the loss of her virginity, which she hopes to complete before she passes away.
Despite the more forgiving choice of title, it’s worth saying from the outset that the inevitability of a sad ending is actually one of the film’s strongest points. You’ll spend less time wishing that Tessa’s life could be saved, and more time contemplating her unavoidable death, and the effect this has upon her already dysfunctional family. So expect tears, due mainly to an outstanding performance from Paddy Considine as Tessa’s quietly desperate father, who eventually succumbs to the idea of losing his daughter. This, coupled with the hopeless unreliability of Tessa’s mother (Williams), truly gives this film a place alongside the grittier tearjerkers.
Unfortunately, the film also has its weak points; sadly, the main one is Fanning’s slightly stiff portrayal of a middle-class Brighton-born teenager.The child-star turned Hollywood favourite is somewhat outdone by co-star Irvine who gives a convincingly endearing performance as her love interest. It’s a further shame that their romance takes place against an unnecessary backdrop of clichéd montages and a predictable soundtrack, which at times have us feeling ashamed that we ever felt upset in the first place.
It’s fortunate, however, that Parker, known best for his work The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, just about manages to salvage the film from a dip into the downright cheesy with the injection of some punchy one-liners and quirky cinematography, which provides the film with a truly British feel: rendering its subject matter extremely relatable and with a distinct ‘close-to-home’ feel.