Tuesday 9 July 2013

From Page to Screen: Now Is Good

Adapted from Before I Die by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books, 2007)

September 2012 


What’s it about?
Sixteen-year-old Tessa has leukaemia and she’s not going to survive it. So she writes a list of the things she wants to do before she dies: take drugs, have sex, shoplift and fall in love. And those are only the beginning of it.

How does it hold up?
I first saw this in the cinema with the lovely Carly of Writing from the Tub when it came out and we sobbed through most of the second half. We were pretty glad that the screen was virtually empty! It had been years since I read the book so I went in with what I remembered and was just ready to cry and enjoy a good British film and I certainly did both!
With the idea of this feature, I felt that I should re-watch the movie with the book in mind and make some notes this time. Once again, tears everywhere.

When I first heard about the casting for Now Is Good I was really unsure. Now I think it’s perfect. Dakota Fanning has a look of strong fragility about her if you know what I mean. The sound of her voice is spot on, her movements, everything about her is Tessa. She plays the bitter, angry and hard version and the softer, scared and open version equally well. Tessa’s character is just as three-dimensional in the film as in the book, if slightly more unlikable. I’m glad they kept the feel of the first person narration in the film as well. I loved that we only saw what Tessa did and that it ended when she died. It felt right that way and as if the film was a tribute to the novel.

Although Tessa and Adam were very true to the characters Jenny Downham wrote and the broken family dynamic was retained, powerfully so, something felt very different about Now Is Good. I think a lot of the raw edge of Before I Die was missing for me. everything was toned down and lots of the most powerful and shocking moments in the novel that helped it garner the attention it did were left out to keep it at a 12A instead of the 15 I think that it should have been.

For me, one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the novel was Tessa’s dad reaction to Tessa’s attitude and her illness. Seeing him slowly break but try to hold it together for her and her brother Cal choked me up from the start and it was a scene between him and Tessa that made me cry for the first time of the film. Paddy Considine is incredible in this role and the chemistry between him and Dakota Fanning was perfect. It came across a lot stronger in Now Is Good than it did in the novel from what  I remember and it made a really strong impact – I loved it.

Now Is Good is beautiful, sad, hopeful and quintessentially British. It’s a great film and a great accompaniment to Before I Die, just don’t expect it to be the book.

Rating: 7/10

Did you think Now Is Good was edgy enough? Was Tessa a bit too annoying, or just a realistic portrait of a dying sixteen-year-old? Did it make you cry?


1 comment:

  1. Jeremy Irvine is divine.

    I mean, yes, the film was well done and true to the book. I like that they didn't shy away from Tessa's selfish side.
    Every time I watch it I get teary. Beautifully acted and done. I'm so glad to see a UKYA adaption bought to film well too.


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