×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Now Is Good

Writer-helmer Ol Parker's warmhearted, well-acted sophomore feature delivers a Nicholas Sparks-style teen "Love Story" plot, spiked with refreshing flashes of sex, drugs and Ellie Goulding songs.

With:
Tessa Scott - Dakota Fanning
Adam - Jeremy Irvine
Tessa's father - Paddy Considine
Tessa's mother - Olivia Williams
Zoey - Kaya Scodelario

“Is it the whole dying-girl thing, or do you have something original planned?” When the leukemia-afflicted protag of “Now Is Good” foxes a radio interviewer with this question, she could be asking the same thing of the filmmakers. Writer-helmer Ol Parker’s warmhearted, well-acted sophomore feature delivers a bit of both, spiking the Nicholas Sparks-style teen “Love Story” plot with refreshing flashes of sex, drugs and Ellie Goulding songs. Young auds should respond sympathetically when the pic bows in Blighty, with the pretty pairing of a British-accented Dakota Fanning and rising star Jeremy Irvine lending moderate international appeal.

Adapted by Parker (who scripted oldster smash “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) from Jenny Downham’s acclaimed young-adult novel “Before I Die,” the film visits markedly similar territory to last year’s “Restless,” a study of star-crossed American teens in Portland, Ore. But “Now Is Good” has fewer artistic pretensions than that Gus Van Sant film, and feels a good deal more authentically youthful.

Popular on Variety

Rather than burdening his central couple with hipster affectations — which wouldn’t be difficult, given that the pic is set in the fashionable coastal English city of Brighton — Parker lets them be cluelessly juvenile and maddeningly precocious by turns. A key indicator of how the terminally ill Tessa (Fanning) embraces the adulthood she’ll never have is the bucket list she keeps: Right below the obligatory teenage wish for a tattoo is a more curious resolution to “hit a racist.”

Losing her virginity, however, is Tessa’s top priority. A tone-setting pre-credits sequence finds her, with racy best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario from “Wuthering Heights”), fumblingly attempting to do just that with two bristle-headed local boys. A worthier suitor arrives in the apple-cheeked form of new neighbor Adam (Irvine), who recently lost his own father to cancer. Saintly, intelligent and built like an Abercrombie & Fitch model, Adam is nonetheless warily regarded by Tessa’s divorced, overprotective dad (Paddy Considine), and the two men’s struggle for possession of the dying girl’s heart forms the story’s key conflict. Less of an obstacle is Tessa’s flaky, bottle-blonde mom (Olivia Williams, delightful as ever), who keenly diagnoses Adam as “a hot-buttered biscuit.”

Parker handles the grim reality of Tessa’s disease with healthy candor — the possibility of recovery is off the table — so it’s disconcerting when the film launches into high-key romanticism in the latter stretches. A scene in which the young couple takes a sunset motorcycle ride through the country, wild horses galloping alongside them, dips into florid kitsch that doesn’t seem consistent with Tessa’s own imagination; “War Horse” star Irvine, meanwhile, needs no further equine associations.

It’s left to the strong cast to keep things credible. Irvine is particularly appealing, bringing convincingly awkward sensitivity and gentle goofiness to a role that could play merely to his dreamboat strengths. He’s a surprisingly fair foil for Considine, brusque and finally moving as the father who can’t accept what his daughter already has done. Only Fanning, typically attentive to detail and making a good stab at the accent, feels a little studied; if not for concerns of marquee appeal, producers might have been better off promoting the frisky, feline-eyed Scodelario.

Production values are stronger and occasionally more inventive than the material demands, with Erik Alexander Wilson’s bright, carefully framed lensing and Dustin O’Halloran’s lightly electro-dusted score both fresh assets.

Now Is Good

U.K.

Production: A Warner Bros. release of a BBC Films, British Film Institute presentation of a Blueprint Pictures production in association with TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, Rising Star Film. Produced by Pete Czernin, Graham Broadbent. Executive producers, Peter Hampden, Adam Kulick, Christine Langan. Co-producers, Sarah Harvey, Richard Hewitt. Directed, written by Ol Parker, based on the novel "Before I Die" by Jenny Downham.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Erik Alexander Wilson; editor, Peter Lambert; music, Dustin O'Halloran; music supervisor, Liz Gallacher; production designer, Amanda McArthur; art director, John Reid; costume designer, Suzie Harman; sound (Dolby Digital), John Hayes; re-recording mixer, Robert Farr; visual effects supervisor, Stefan Drury; associate producer, Downham; assistant director, Alex Oakley; casting, Nina Gold. Reviewed at Apollo Piccadilly, London, July 12, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Tessa Scott - Dakota Fanning
Adam - Jeremy Irvine
Tessa's father - Paddy Considine
Tessa's mother - Olivia Williams
Zoey - Kaya Scodelario
With: Edgar Canham, Joe Cole, Julia Ford, Julian Wadham, Josef Altin, Rakie Ayola, Tom Kane, Franz Drameh, Simon Wilson, Susan Brown, Claire Swinburne, Sarah Hadland, Kate Dickie, Rose Leslie, Isabella Laughland, Patrick Baladi, Luke Carroll, Darren Morfitt.

More Film

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • Golden Globes nominations predictions

    Golden Globes 2020 Predictions: What Movies and TV Shows Might Nab Nominations?

    Awards season kicks into higher gear on Monday, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces nominations for its 2020 Golden Globe Awards, which cover the 2019 calendar year. Noms will give certain films momentum heading into the Oscar race, while it’s the first opportunity for many TV series to earn awards acclaim before competing for [...]

  • Peter Sarsgaard The Batman

    Peter Sarsgaard Joins Robert Pattinson in 'The Batman'

    Peter Sarsgaard is joining Robert Pattinson in Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” in an undisclosed role. “The Batman” director Matt Reeves tweeted the news on Friday, sharing a gif of Sarsgaard accompanied by a bat emoji. Pattinson is starring as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The movie also stars Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin [...]

  • Worst movies 2019

    The Worst Films of 2019

    Keep in mind that we haven’t seen “Cats.” Or a single one of the half-dozen Nicolas Cage movies released “on demand” (to zero demand?) this past year. Still, in the ongoing quest to find the next masterpiece, film critics inevitably have to sit through a lot more turkeys than your typical moviegoer. Rather than let [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    'Frozen 2' Still Sizzling With $37 Million in Third Weekend; 'Playmobil' Crashing

    “Frozen 2” is gradually warming up the North American box office, with an estimated $37 million its third weekend at 4,348 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Disney’s animated sequel is projected to decline about 57%. Should estimates hold, “Frozen 2” should finish the weekend with nearly $340 million domestically in it first 17 days. With [...]

  • Legendary Logo

    Legendary Invests in Library Pictures to Fund Local-Language Production

    Legendary Pictures has made an investment in Library Pictures International with plans to fund local-language productions. Library Pictures is a content-financing entity organized earlier this year by CAA Media Finance to support industry-leading filmmakers and distributors by investing in local-language production slates. As part of the deal, Legendary becomes part of a team at Library [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content