I am not, nor have I ever been, a teenage girl. So I am probably not the target audience for Now Is Good, the recent film starring Dakota Fanning as streetwise, moody-in-a-cool-way leukaemia sufferer, Tessa.
But this isn’t your average weepie. Yes, it has the airbrushed, impossibly-sincere boy next door, the slutty best friend, the annoying little brother, and the broken home where dad cares too much and mum not nearly enough. But it rises above most films of this type with great acting, intelligent humour and, most notably as it nears its end, truth.
Adapted from the book Before I Die by Jenny Downham, the film tells the story of 17-year-old Brighton girl Tessa, who, with only months to live, is working her way through a bucket list of teen to-dos.
As Tessa, Fanning is remarkable. In a role that could so easily have grated, we root for her throughout. Yes, she looks remarkably well for someone with terminal cancer – less pale, more angelic – but the film is full of the harsh reality of her condition, most shockingly in a bathroom scene that quickly shifts the tone from rom-com to horror.
It is a film you need to buy into. But if you do, there are rich rewards.
In the roles of Tessa’s parents, Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams are fantastic. Considine paints a father desperately fighting against fate, while Williams’ apparently uncaring mother reveals herself to be just as loving and no less scared. Her realisation that she knows so little about her daughter’s condition is fantastically acted in a frantic hospital scene.
Countless films – mostly American – tackle the subject of inevitable death with oversentimentality. Now Is Good does not. When Tessa asks about her last days, her nurse answers her with a truth rarely heard on screen. This is death as it is, not as we’d hope it to be.
And as the credits roll, if you are anything like me, you will be grateful for everyone and everything you have.