There always a market for dying teenagers whether they are being slashed up by psychos or expiring from terminal diseases. After a long and frighteningly self-assured career as a child star, Dakota Fanning takes the Gwyneth Paltrow “Sliding Doors”/Renee Zellwegger “Bridget Jones” route for her first adult lead role.

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She turns up in Brighton with an unobtrusively flawless English accent to play a teenager with leukaemia who isn’t likely to make it to voting age but has a list of things to do first.

Tessa (Fanning) is refusing to go in the brave, graceful way her father (Paddy Considine) wants while her divorced mother (Olivia Williams) doesn’t really seem to be able to face the situation. She does though have her best friend (Kaya Scoledario) to help her break a few laws and a potential love interest next door (Irvine).

Cliches

Taken from the novel Before I Die, Parker’s film is honest and truthful but not to the point where it becomes barbaric. The film avoids all the sentimentality and gives you moments that seem uncomfortably realistic but it doesn’t lose sight of the fact, while that it is a weepie, it is still an entertainment. It does all the clichés but in ways that seem like the real human acts that were the inspirations for those clichés in the first place.

I was going to say that you can’t argue with an auditorium full of red eyes and runny noses but then I remembered sitting in the same Warner Brothers screening room wiping my eyes after seeing Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List, a clanking piece on a similar topic. Tears have no discernment but you won’t resent being worked over by this.

There is something very poignant about the casting of Fanning opposite Irvine as the doomed lovers. Irvine came across as a bit of a plank in his only previous role, the lad in Spielberg’s War Horse. Here though he is endlessly engaging, Matt Smith in the body of an Abercrombie and Fitch model. Fanning was such an unctuous child star but the grown-up version is much easier to take.

Cruelly, like Haley Joel Osment, she hasn’t been treated kindly by puberty. She has film star ability and experience but not a film star face.

NOW IS GOOD (12A)

Director: Ol Parker

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine, Kaya Scoledario and Olivia Williams

Length: 102 mins

***

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