out of Five
Running time: 103
Watchable, emotionally engaging British weepie with strong performances from a talented cast, though the script cops out on several occasions and often loses sight of its central premise.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ol Parker and based on the novel by Jenny Downham, Now Is Good stars Dakota Fanning as Tessa, a 17 year old British girl who has opted out of continued treatment for her terminal leukaemia, much to the concern of her over-protective father (Paddy Considine), her younger brother (Edgar Canham) and her separated mother (Olivia Williams). Instead, Tessa plans to live out the rest of her life to the full, so she writes a secret list of things she wants to do before she dies (lose virginity, take drugs, shoplift, etc) and asks her best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) to help her tick them off. However, when she meets her sensitive new neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine, down off his War Horse), the pair find themselves falling for each other, which is something Tessa hadn't counted on.
Dakota Fanning is very good as Tessa, nailing the British accent and sparking decent chemistry with both Irvine and Considine while pulling off just the right amount of mopey to stay on the right side of annoying. The supporting performances, however, are excellent, particularly Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams, whose relationship is frustratingly underwritten throughout (the film might have worked better if Tessa had been trying to get them back together before she died), while Scodelario is amusing as Zoey, Canham provides a few welcome funny lines as Cal and Irvine pushes the right buttons as Adam.
Novelist Jenny Downham clearly has her eye on some of that Nicholas Sparks-style weepie money and the script duly goes through the expected motions, blending terminal illness and doomed romance to achieve the desired effect. To that end, it mostly works, despite the occasional wobble in dialogue and at least the film doesn't cop out in the final act.
That said, the main problem is that, having set up the importance of Tessa's list (scrawled in big letters on her bedroom wall and hidden behind a poster), the film then completely backs away from actually showing her doing anything on the list. The drugs scene is particularly notable on that score (it feels as if the first half of the scene was cut in order to get a 12A rating), while the centrally important sex scene is glossed over in such a way that you're never actually sure whether she gets to tick it off or not.
Now is Good is an entirely watchable weepie that does more or less what you'd expect from the premise, even if it does pull its punches when it comes to the racier stuff.