Film & TV

Filmmaker Russo-Young Brings Book To Life

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Indie filmmaker Ry Russo-Young takes audiences inside the pages of Lauren Oliver’s popular novel of the same name. The film adaptation brings to life the story’s rich and resonant commentary on the human capacity for change and discovery.

For 17-year-old Sam Kingston (Zoey Deutch), her sudden death in a car accident turns into a lesson in living life to the fullest. The conspicuous hands of fate force Sam to repeatedly relive her last day on earth until she finally learns how to live with compassion and understanding, picking up some powerful life lessons along the way.

During this time of self-reflection, Sam is forced to recognize the unforgiving shallowness of the life she leads among her group of superficial friends, which is headed by the troubled and overpowering Lindsay Edgecomb (Halston Sage).

In many ways, Sam’s journey of self-discovery hits upon the reality of the emotional and social struggles of being a teenager. The story beautifully encompasses the belief that life’s meaning relies on the fullness of human relationships. This being the case, Russo-Young has delivered a lasting story of love and growth that will resonate with audiences of all ages.

For director Russo-Young and the film’s stars Deutch and Sage, the filming process was memorable in a number of ways. Nevertheless, all three of them agreed on their love for the inspirational heart of the story itself.

When Russo-Young first read the film’s script, she was struck by its uncommon handling of teenagers’ struggles. The director appreciated how the story brings dignity to the average teenage experience and doesn’t judge.

Sage said she loved the story’s complex and deeply emotional plot. She was especially struck by its inclusion of the complications of growing up.

“I think what really drew me to the script and this story was that it was very raw and very honest in dealing with the questions that we ask ourselves as adults, as well as young adults,” said Sage. “That’s what I kind of love about this film, is that you do see darkness — you see the darkness that you feel at that age when, you know, everything feels like it’s falling apart, but you learn that you can control that. You can take darkness and choose to see light.”

Like Russo-Young and Sage, Deutch said she also fell in love with the story’s uplifting messages, which she said have the ability to speak to everyone.

“There are so many beautiful messages throughout the course of the film, and I’m interested to always ask people what part that they took from it. It just depends on your life and your experiences and your relationships,” Deutch said. “But for me … you’re reminded not to take the people that you love for granted and that you can never, ever tell someone that you love them too many times, or appreciate them too much.”

As the film’s protagonist, Deutch felt a great responsibility to bring her character, Sam, to life with sheer authenticity. For her, embodying the emotional complexity of her character was “therapeutic and life-changing.”

“Before I Fall” opens in theaters March 3. Courtesy of Awesonemess Films / Distributor: Open Road Films

For Sage, portraying Lindsay, the mean ringleader of Sam’s friend group, was a job that required a bit of deep analysis, as she sought to express the pain of her character’s past through her mistreatment of others.

“What I was really focusing on when I was playing her was not so much being mean, but why she was mean and finding out that her vulnerability and insecurities come from having seen her parents go through a divorce,” Sage said. “When I was able to understand why she treated people the way she did, it helped me get into the mindset of ‘OK, I’m going to be mean to this person because I want them to feel as broken inside as I feel.’”

Unlike many films, “Before I Fall” delves into the darkness of mental suffering in revelatory ways. With profound delicacy, the story’s characters are forced to singularly overcome the problems that plague them.

In a society where young women are pressured to act and feel a certain way, the film appears compellingly relevant, as feminism continues to find a new foothold within our fast-growing world.

Deutch expressed her pride in the novel’s unconventional plot, stressing how the romantic storyline within the film “takes a backseat” to Sam’s “psychological journey and growth,” which she said is rarely seen in other novels from this genre.

In terms of the film’s tender and thought-provoking plot, the actress said she couldn’t find enough words to convey her love for its intricate and universal message of living life with compassion and understanding. Deutch said Sam’s arduous yet worthwhile journey of self-discovery lies at the heart of Oliver’s touching story.

“I think [Sam] feels in the beginning that life will just carry her along without having to live authentically and, you know, over the course of the story, she starts to realize who she wants to become, and that becoming is a permanent process,” Deutch said. “What you do now, today, forever matters and has an affect on people.”

Like other filmmakers over the years, Russo-Young succeeds in developing a story with a profound “carpe diem” element that sticks with viewers long after the movie has ended. However, the film’s authentic relatability to today’s young adults is what makes “Before I Fall” stand out from other films that have been released so far this year.

Audiences can watch Deutch and Sage light up the silver screen in “Before I Fall” when it hits theaters nationwide March 3.

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