There are cinematic masterpieces that move you to tears with nearly imperceptible touches; subtly underplayed performances here, a little poetic lighting there and just the right key change at the narrative dénouement (insert rain drenched boulevards, soaring orchestral scores, and a quietly sobbing protagonist to taste). Now is Good is not one of those films. Directed by Ol Parker (who also penned the screenplay for unexpected hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Now Is Good is defiantly engineered with near-surgical precision to elicit racking sobs from the most cold-hearted of cinemagoers.
The film is based on a young adult novel – Before I Die by Jenny Downham – about terminally ill 17 year old Tessa (Dakota Fanning) battling to live the last months of her life to the full. This premise undoubtedly makes for gloomy viewing. Tessa must face the usual trials of adolescence – falling in love for the first time, making friends, losing her virginity and fighting with estranged parents – all while facing a cruelly premature death.
Now is Good is clearly pitched at a teenage audience familiar with the original novel and director Ol Parker skilfully weaves between bleak melodrama and teen comedy romance, landing somewhere between The Bucket List and an episode of Skins. At its heart is a tender relationship between Tessa and her next door neighbour Adam (played by emerging teen heartthrob Jeremy Irvine, War Horse). As Tessa’s condition worsens, she takes solace in the ultimately bittersweet romance. It is here that setting comes into its own and Parker’s decision to set the action against the grey beaches and crumbling piers of Brighton crystallises the overarching sense of bleak romance.
While Now Is Good employs almost all readily available clichés, Dakota Fanning’s accomplished turn as the fiercely precocious Tessa, facing her own mortality with a grim stoicism beyond her years, succeeds in giving the film some bite. Paddy Considine is also heartbreaking as Tessa’s father, impotent in the face of his only daughter’s rapidly advancing illness.
It seems churlish to condemn a film for being a straightforward tearjerker – which Now Is Good definitely is. However, the problem isn’t so much that Now Is Good will reduce its teenage target audience to public sniveling, but that it does so by pushing the most obvious and most sentimental buttons repeatedly, relentlessly and somewhat extravagantly. The result is that long before the story has reached its inevitable climax, all the emotional cards have been dealt. Nonetheless, Now is Good offers harmless, life-affirming viewing for younger audiences.