DIR/WRI: Ol Parker • PRO: Christine Langan, Adam Kulick, Peter Hampden • DOP: Erik Wilson • ED: Peter Lambert • DES: Amanda McArthur • CAST: Dakota Fanning, Paddy Considine, Jeremy Irvine, Olivia Williams, Kaya Scodelario
Young adult novels are becoming increasingly common for film adaptations. What with the recent success of The Hunger Games and, more notably, the Harry Potter franchise, it seems that every other film is catering to that demographic. Now Is Good is based on a popular young-adult novel, Before I Die. However, instead of being a fantasy / sci-fi novel or featuring vampires, Now Is Good deals with something far more grounded in reality. Tessa, played by Dakota Fanning, is a teenager diagnosed with leukaemia living with her divorced father (Paddy Considine) in London. Her illness has been with her from an early age and, unsurprisingly, dominates both their lives on a daily basis. The films follows Tessa as she attempts to work through a ‘bucket list’ that includes taking drugs for the first time, losing her virginity and breaking the law.
The writer/director, Ol Parker – who previously worked on TV series Grange Hill – makes a reasonable attempt at dealing with both the seriousness of Tessa’s illness together with the usual teenage misadventures. In fact, the opening is a cringe-worthy scene involving a fumbling first date with a random man picked up at a rave. The film shifts gear when the next-door neighbour, Adam (Jeremy Irvine), begins a relationship with her. As her condition deteriorates, both Adam and her father trying to come to terms with it and make peace with one another. The plot of the film follows a reasonably straightforward pattern and follows the book more or less to the letter. While the topic of leukaemia and the main character’s illness is never far away, the story does try to develop an ill-fated coming-of-age story. The script is quite safe and doesn’t go any darker than absolutely necessary. The film is, after all, based on a young adult novel so there’s little room to manoeuvre or elaborate on.
Dakota Fanning’s wispy frame fits the character and Paddy Considine turns in a reasonable performance. Overall, the cast worked well with what they had. The real issue of the film is not with that but with the script. There never feels like it can go anywhere. Most of the scenes where Tessa is trying to cross something racy or illegal off her list is treated with kids’ gloves. It doesn’t necessarily have to go into Breaking Bad territory, but there was a chance to make a more real and genuine response to a terminal illness than stealing lipstick from a pharmacy. Ol Parker’s camera work is quite beautiful and Erik Wilson’s cinematography is on par with his work on Submarine and Tyrannosaur. It’s a shame there wasn’t a stronger script behind Now Is Good as it’s an intriguing premise; mortality being faced at an early age. Unfortunately, Now Is Good is a trite tearjerker that will go over with teenage audiences but little else.