Director: Ry Russo-Young
Producers: Marc Bienstock, Brett Boutier, Jessica Held
Written By: Maria Maggenti (screenplay)
Based on the novel by: Lauren Oliver
Starring: ZoeyDeutch, Halston Sage, ElenaKampouris
As a reviewer, this film was a rollercoaster of sorts.
The outline excited me at first, a teen who relives her last day on Earth, as it brought to mind philosophical questions. Although, I must also admit that I struggled as I endured the teenager’s squeaking while the story built up. Luckily for me, my companion, someone who had read Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel (that the film is based on), reassured me to stay in my seat.
So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.
Structure-wise, the film has a similar motion to Groundhog Day, where Zoey Deutch’s character (Sam) wakes up to the same day over and over until she figures out the only way to escape is to change.
Behind the scenes, every single person involved in this project was set to rehearse and explore their characters in depth, which transcends onto the screen.
Russo-Young did this early in the process, and was thorough in doing so, providing more texture in characters such as Kian Lawley’s (Rob), Sam’s boyfriend, who becomes more than just a highschool cliché.
RyYoung-Ross, the director, spoke about the changes made in the film, in particular the re-setting of the location from Connecticut in the novel to the Pacific Northwest in the film.
In her own words: ‘Setting the story in the Northwest gave a sense of awe to all the locations: big mountains, big trees, and a dark and foreboding landscape where people are small and dwarfed by the natural landscape, which reinforce aspects of the story for me. It suited the material well.’
As a viewer I cannot agree more with the above, there was something about the dramatic setting that really captured Sam’s struggle between life and death.
Ry Russo-Younghas received accolades from the New York State Council on the Arts, the TriBeCa Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, the Sundance Institute and Creative Capital. She majored in film at Oberlin College and grew up in New York City. Her work has been praised by The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, among others.
As a post-release review, I would lie if I said I haven’t read what others had to say about this film before I set to write my own thoughts about it. And to tell you the truth, I was genuinely surprised to find mostly reflections on the bullying themes as well as other teen related behaviours that are portrayed in the film.
And there is nothing wrong about that. But, in my humble opinion, this film was much more than that. It is a tale about the search for identity and authenticity, of empathy and acceptance, and ultimately of the courage it takes to do the right thing by yourself as well as others.
Sam’s post-mortem journey is a powerful story that leaves you pondering about your own existence. It is a book that, I have been told, was in the Australian school curriculum a few years ago and I hope still is for the sake of the coming generations.
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