We’ve been seeing bucket list / life before death films for years, most notably the misfire that was Julia Robert’s follow up to Pretty Woman, Dying Young where she played “spunky” nurse to terminal Campbell Scott. That film was one of many duds that littered Robert’s post success career, which she now seems to have moved well away from. Dying Young was over twenty years ago but the more octogenarian Bucket List dealt with the issue of “last days” was a lot more recent.
Now we get a watchable, engaging weepie with excellent performances from a truly talented cast, although the script occasionally cops out and often loses sight of its core premise.
Now is Good covers similar ground, but goes straight for the heart as the terminal impatient patient is a young (sob) girl. Now is Good started life (under the title of Before I Die) as a Jenny Downham bestseller, about a 17-year-old girl dying of leukaemia, if that is likely to send you running from the cinema, think again because Now is Good, directed by Ol Parker is really well…good. Source novelist Jenny Downham has a knack for some serious weepie moments and the script duly goes through the motions, blending illness and ill-fated romance to the desired effect.
Now Is Good stars Dakota (you’ve seen her in so many things) Fanning as Tessa, a 17 year old Brighton girl who has decided to opt out of continued treatment for her terminal disease, (understandably) much to the distress of her over-protective father (the ever reliable Paddy Considine), her younger brother (up and coming talent Edgar Canham) and her separated mother (Olivia Williams in another fine performance). A bona-fida star of the future (and present) Fanning is excellent as Tessa, nailing the British accent and bouncing well off both Irvine and Considine while keeping the right side of cutesy or annoying. The supporting performances, however, are even better; particularly Considine and Williams, but whose characters (and themselves) deserve a better written relationship.
Now is Good focuses not on the early (“oh no I’m going to lose my hair”) stages of the “disease” but instead of the back end (“I’m actually going to die”) of the illness, and the knowledge that there really is no time like the present for the movie’s lead. Young Tessa wants nothing more to do with tubes and drugs, she plans to live out the remainder of her life full throttle, so she writes a secret (bucket) list of things she wants to do before / achieve before she pops her clogs (this list includes (quite understandably) losing virginity, taking drugs, shoplifting, etc) and she enlists her best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) to help her tick them off. The list goes a little off kilter when Tessa meets, sensitive new neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine, from War Horse), and the pair find themselves (genuinely) falling for each other, which is something that wasn’t on the list.
However the main problem with Now is Good is that, having set up the significance of Tessa’s life list (in big letters on her bedroom wall, behind a poster), the film then totally backs away from actually showing her really achieving anything on the quota. The druggie scene is particularly guilty on that score (possibly bottling it in order to get a 12A rating), while the sex scene is varnished in such a way that you’re never actually sure whether it’s off the list or not. Tessa is a character with real balls, but the film hasn’t quite grown a pair of its own.