In the Loop: Before I Fall

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

Before I Fall (2017, directed by Ry Russo-Young)

  • Time until the loop begins: 22 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: A car accident, but also … bullying?
  • Number of time loops: At least 12 (there were possibly a couple of more in a montage)
  • Lessons learned: “Just focus on that one good thing.”

In the Loop logoAfter an overly “thoughtful” voiceover about What Life Means, we meet Sam (Zoey Deutch), one of the pretty, popular girls at her school. It’s “Cupid’s Day” where everyone gets roses from their admirers. Along with her cool-girl friends, Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu), and Elody (Medalion Rahimi), Sam discusses her plan to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley).

These girls are all charming but none are really likable. We also immediately know Sam is “bad” because she dismisses her younger sister’s gift of an origami bird. If you’ve seen a time loop movie before, you know Sam will end up being a better person at the end. If you’ve seen a YA movie before (or read a YA novel, like the one this movie is based on, written by Lauren Oliver), you know Sam will end up rejecting her jerky boyfriend for her sweet, sensitive childhood friend, Kent. Not much here is a surprise, but the larger issues and Deutch’s appealing performance allow this to rise above the generic beats of the material.

The girls end up at a party at Kent’s (Logan Miller) house, which is crashed but local weird girl Juliet (Elena Kampouris). Lindsay, being a bitch (although with a troubled past, or something) yells at her to leave and Juliet yells back. The girls leave and are in a car wreck.

Then the loop begins. Sam is, of course, confused, and her confusion lasts a bit too long. I do like the newer time loop movies that just skip over the “what is happening?” sequence but I appreciate that this movie did take time to not have everything be exactly the same.

Sam learns during the second loop that Juliet killed herself after the party. Admittedly, it takes a little bit long to get here and Lindsay’s revelation of “Yeah, I used to be friends with Juliet” is just more tedious mean-girl stuff.

After a few more loops, Sam gives up and gives herself an angry, bad-girl makeover (it’s not an extreme haircut but I’ll take it). She bonds and trades shoes with Anna, who the girls have bullied for being gay. Anna (Liv Hewson) gives a withering “I’m not going to remember any of you” to Sam and it’s slowly dawning on Sam that she’s been a bitch this whole time.

That’s one of the biggest flaws of this movie. Sam is presented as kind of self-involved, but Deutch brings such a sweetness to the role it’s hard to believe she’s actually like this. Also, Deutch just sells the hell out of all the emotional beats. It’s fun rooting for Sam because you’re mostly rooting for Deutch.

Sam treats her little sister to a fun day (you see, she’s a good person now!) and has a heartfelt talk with her mom (Jennifer Beals). She’s also wearing a cuddly sweater in this scene, further selling the whole “she’s good now!” thing.

There are some flaws here. It’s never clear why Sam was the one to save Juliet from suicide. Lindsay never has any kind of redemption. Kent’s entire “I’ve been in love with you since the third grade!” thing is boring.

I appreciate the focus on the impact of bullying and also that’s there’s a larger life outside of high school. But I also can’t help thinking of how traumatized Sam’s friends and Kent are going to be after Sam sacrifices herself to save Juliet. Like … did that really solve anything for anyone? What if Sam just set Juliet up to be bullied even more?

These are questions this movie isn’t really interesting in answering, nor do I think it’s bothering to even ask them. I do think the script, written by Maria Maggenti and Gina Prince-Bythewood, is strong, though, overall (I have not read the novel so I can’t compare) and Sam rediscovering who she is — and what power she has in being herself — actually feels earned. The emotional core — carried by Deutch’s strong performance — is what makes this a satisfying journey in the end.

Next week on May 18: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.