Preteen girls will find this soppy romance unbearably romantic, but everyone else will struggle to sit through it. Based on the Jenny Downham novel Before I Die, the movie feels like a British variation on the Nicolas Sparks genre with its seaside locations and teary drama. It looks lovely, but is so emotionally manipulative that older viewers are more likely to roll their eyes than shed a tear.
Dakota Fanning stars as 17-year-old Tessa, known locally as the girl with leukaemia who opted out of treatment. She has a secret bucket list that her parents (Considine and Williams) know nothing about, and her best pal Zoey (Scodelario) is helping her work through, from committing petty crime to trying drugs. But sex is at the forefront of Tessa's mind, especially when she meets the dreamy new boy next door. Adam (Irvine) is a sensitive soul who is dealing with his own grief, so is perfectly suited to help Tessa face her own mortality.
Writer-director Parker shamelessly steers each scene into the desired emotion. Some sequences are cute and silly, while others are melodramatic and tense, but it's all so deliberate that we never have a sense of real life taking place. There isn't a single throwaway moment, which prevents the actors from creating complex characters. Instead, they spend much of the time gazing at each other wistfully. Fanning's iridescent blue eyes are mesmerising, while Irvine's quivering features are strikingly beautiful, but we're left wondering why we should be interested in these mopey teens.
Honestly, you expect just a bit more energy in a story about a young woman who wants to live her life to the full before she dies. Sure, there's one smiley beach-day montage, but these people seem unable to think about anything but terminal illness and doomed love. As Tessa's mother, Williams manages to inject some edgy drama, but the usually fine Considine gets swamped by the gooey tone. As the film gets increasingly maudlin, grown-up viewers will be sickened by the nauseating emotion. But 12-year-old girls will find it devastating.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 19th September 2012
Production compaines: Goldcrest Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Ol Parker
Producer: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
Screenwriter: Jenny Downham, Ol Parker