views from the gods

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Now Is Good (12A)
Odeon, Covent Garden
17th September 2012


When a film's main character is a 17-year-old girl dying of cancer, you don't need to be a genius to work out how it's going to end and also that you are going to need plenty of tissues. Now Is Good certainly does nothing to confound those expectations. If you're the hopeful sort, take note that the film is based on Jenny Downham's less positively named novel Before I Die.

The film revolves around Tessa (Dakota Fanning) who, after fighting leukaemia for four years, has decided to stop treatment to improve the quality of the time she does have left. Tessa is deeply sarcastic, always blunt and often intentionally cruel, but she is after all a terminally ill teenager, so her unkind moments are understandable, even if difficult to condone and sometimes a little annoying.

After initially trying without much luck to tick off as many items as possible on her bucket list with the help of best friend Zoey (Kay Scodelario), Tessa suddenly meets and falls in love with the perfect boy next door, Adam (Jeremy Irvine). This prompts several of her goals being accomplished in quick succession. Tessa's father (the always exceptional Paddy Considine) tries to scare off her new boyfriend, being all the more overprotective of her due to her deteriorating condition, however Adam is determined to support Tessa too and can't be chased away.

The sheer devotion of Tessa's father and boyfriend is nicely contrasted by the lack of involvement from her mother (Oliva Williams), who is unable to cope with Tessa's illness. It's nice to see at least one character fail at accepting Tessa's inevitable death and in particular for this to be the mother figure, who ordinarily would be assumed to be the one best at supporting her child. Similarly, little brother Cal (Edgar Canham) helps break up the saccharine moments with some nice throwaway comic lines, much in the same style as Ben (Daniel Roche) from television sitcom Outnumbered.

Talking of BBC actors, here Holby City actress Rakie Ayola makes the jump from small screen to big, even if she doesn't particularly expand her range in playing Phillipa, a Marie Curie nurse. It is only a small supporting role, but the performance she puts in as a pragmatic and compassionate carer is one of the film's stronger ones and deserves a mention.

Considine, unfortunately, also does not have as much screen time as he deserves, but he gives his all to his role, delivering a heartbreakingly believable performance as a dedicated father struggling to let go of his little girl. His emotionally charged portrayal helps makes Tessa's story watchable. Indeed, the histories of Tessa's family and friends are never fully developed - we are acutely aware that Zoey has fallen pregnant and the baby's father doesn't want anything to do with her, we see hints that Tessa's parents may have broken up because of her illness rather than their feelings towards each other - but the focus is kept very much on how Tessa is feeling. It is not always easy to relate to Fanning's character, but the supporting cast help keep the audience on side.

With original music from Dustin O'Halloran, together with songs by Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey, the soundtrack is beautifully subtle for the most part, enhancing each scene rather than distracting from it. In some more spaced out moments however, the music is allowed to take over and create an ethereal ambience. Combined with some gorgeous home grown scenery from Brighton, it's easy to lose yourself in the emotions that this film creates.

If you don't like getting weepy in public, this is one to avoid at all costs. Even the cynics who will insist this film has been written purely to make people cry will struggle not to let at least one tear fall themselves. Initially quite slow, this does pick up pace, with the ending rather beautiful and unsurprisingly, very sad.

Now Is Good was released on 19th September 2012.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)

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