British Film Review – ‘Now is Good’
Review By Ben Keightley
Now is Good tells the story of a young 16 year old girl, Tessa (Dakota Fanning), who is suffering from terminal leukaemia. Deciding to stop treatment which may prolong her life, but with a greatly reduced quality, Tessa makes of list of all the things she would like to do before she dies.
Being about cancer, and with a teenage girl as the films protagonist there is a constant cloud of heightened emotion which hangs over Now is Good. The film is less about the destination (there is no question Tessa will die of her illness) and more about the journey. It’s an inspiring, life affirming film which pushes the message that one should seize the day, as you never know when they might run out.
At its heart is Dakota Fanning’s performance as Tessa. As a child actress Fanning has been wowing audiences with her emotionally mature acting for over a decade. Like a lot of child stars though she is getting to the age now where the transition from child to adult star can be so perilous. Thankfully, with Now is Good she has a vehicle to help her move effortless into a new phase in her career.
Her performance holds the entire film together. There is vulnerable strength to her Tessa, a blindly rebellious wilfulness which is empowering. She convinces entirely as the weight of her illness begins to consume her. Unlike her parents (played magnificently by Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams) who either fall into denial or desperation, Tessa embraces the reality of her predicament and instead looks to make the most of her final days. Fanning is equally adept at the perfectly littered comedic moments in the film as she is in the tearjerking scene, of which there are many.
The film itself, based on the novel Before I Die, is targeted at a young adult audience, and as such has a light, romantic tone. Although the premise sees her want to achieve all the things on her list before she dies, that goal soon takes a back seat as she meets and falls for next door neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine). The film then becomes a romantic drama about first love. With the ever looming reality of death on the horizon this love becomes much more special and unique, and despite some unconvincing chemistry from Irvine, for the most part it works. There are inevitably some cringing moments, but it targeted audience should lap them up.
The real strength of the film though lies in Tessa’s relationship with her family. With her parents separated, and in the beginning at least, not on the best of terms, there is already a tension undercutting the story and the interplay, and evolving dynamic, between Fanning’s Tessa, Considine’s Father and Williams’ Mother is not only the most fascinating element but also the most moving. A scene towards the end overwhelms Tessa by the simple virtue of being the single most normal familial moment in her life. It’s a wonderfully played, understated scene. Seeing how each parent attempts to come to terms with not only their daughter’s death, but her almost belligerent desire to do what she wants will bring a tear to the eye on more than one occasion. In Considine and Williams the film also has two incredibly gifted actors, who although having small parts, manage to leave lasting impressions.
A subplot involving Tessa’s promiscuous best friend draws an interesting parallel between the problems Tessa face and the problems a normal teenager can face, but the story doesn’t have enough to hold its own against the weight of the central plot, and ultimately falls somewhat flat.
Now is Good is an entertaining film which should play well to its young adult audience, providing they can embrace the film as an inspiring, heartfelt romantic tearjerker. It also serves as the perfect platform for the exceptionally talented Fanning to leap into adult roles.