Directed by: Ol Parker | 103 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Dakota Fanning, Paddy Considine, Jeremy Irvine, Olivia Williams, Kaya Scodelario, Edgar Canham, Rakie Ayola, Patrick Baladi, Rose Leslie, Sarah Hadland, Joe Cole, Julia Ford, Susan Brown, Tom Kane, Franz Drameh
Coincidence does exist. How else can it be explained that in “Before I die” (“Now Is Good”) (2012) there is almost the same scene as in the already similar Dutch youth drama “Eighth graders don’t cry” (2012)? In “AGHN”, Akkie (Hanna Obbeek), suffering from leukemia, climbs a tree at school camp, after which her classmate / friend Joep (Nils Verkooijen) then takes her out. Also in “Before I Die,” based on Jenny Downham’s book, the main character, Tessa Scott (Dakota Fanning), seeks out the lonely height of a tree in the middle of an autumn forest. Just like Joep did with Akkie, Tessa’s boy next door / boyfriend Adam (Jeremy Irvine) also climbs after her. Because of the theme, “Cancer in a Child”, there are more similarities between the two films, but “Before I die” is very different.
To begin with, Tessa is a bit older than Akkie. And where “AGHN” is about the discovery of the disease in the protagonist and its treatment, sixteen-year-old Tessa already knows at the beginning of the film that she is not getting better. She has therefore decided to stop the treatment, so that she can get the most out of what life still has to offer. She has put her goals on a secret list. “Most of it is illegal,” she confronts her father (Paddy Considine) with her plans in the middle of a live radio broadcast.
“Before I die” raises moral questions such as “if you are incurably ill, can you be an insufferable bitch who only does what she wants?” Tessa does not consider anyone except herself. She ignores her little brother Cal (Edgar Canham), is rude to her mother (Olivia Williams) and especially with her well-meaning, caring father, it clashes. Her friendship with Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) is also put to the test. The first tears, or rather tears, that you will shed will therefore not be caused by the undoubtedly good acting lead actress, but by the very strong Paddy Considine. Dakota Fannings Tessa knows how to evoke feelings of understanding, but the emotional connection with the viewer does not reach much further.
And there is more in “Before I die” that does not affect the audience. The subplot about the far-reaching decision Zoey must make feels forced. At first glance, Jeremy Irvine seems cast for his external qualities and unfortunately he does not know how to prove otherwise. His character gets a lot of screen time, but apart from looking a bit sheepish, he knows how to put little feeling into his role. But the infatuated teens will still get their money’s worth thanks to the blossoming, but doomed, romance between Tessa and Adam, portrayed alternately cliché (running horses, snow angel) and subtle (Tessa’s nightmare).
Yet there is still enough positive left. More “seize the day” than the shocking clip in which Tessa prepares for her first date with Adam, but is overtaken by her illness, is not likely to be seen in films. The scenes that showcase the dynamics in Tessa’s family always feel genuine (especially a certain part at the end) and the scene where a nurse explains to Tessa what it is like to die will not leave anyone indifferent. Brighton is beautifully portrayed (a pity that the scene in Dover was clearly made with the help of a green screen). Dakota Fanning delivers a tour-de-force with her perfect English accent. The absolute highlight in acting, however, is formed by Paddy Considine, who, as an intensely sad, powerless father, had earned more time to explore his character.
For fans of films such as’ Ways to Live Forever ‘(2010),’ Oscar et la dame rose ‘(2009) and the more famous’ A Walk to Remember’ (2002) and ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ (2009), ‘Voor ik die ‘a steady hit. Audiences who are less fond of manipulated sadness can safely skip this film.