Movies about people slowly succumbing to a terminal illness are never a bag of laughs but invariably they provide actors with opportunities.
Now is Good is such a picture – a personal project for Dakota Fanning. And it’s surprisingly free of mawkishness and cloying sentiment.
Tessa Scott (Fanning) has leukaemia. She’s going to die. Her dad wraps her in metaphorical cotton wool, denying the truth of her condition while steeling himself for the inevitable. Mum is estranged and a waste of space. Best pal Zoey helps keep reality from the door.
Tessa meets and befriends next-door neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine, from War Horse) and a romance soon develops. Adam helps her fulfil her secret wish list. Dad resents him and is appalled that his daughter has a life outside his claustrophobic embrace. As Tessa slowly fades, her inner spirit becomes apparent. An old head on young shoulders, and sadly wise before her years, she’s pragmatic and conscious of time. “What are you doing?” asks Dad one day. “As much as I can, as fast as I can” comes the reply.
Now is Good – adapted from Jenny Downham’s novel Before I Die by writer/director Ol Parker – is a knot of conflicting emotions and character studies. And it’s Fanning’s film. She’s perfect as the teenager seeking fun and adventure, aided by Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) as they gently break the law and leave a shop without paying.
Of course the big wish is to lose her virginity. Dad (Paddy Considine) is righteously outraged. But he’s lost in his own world, trying to preserve her before she’s gone and it’s eating him up. Considine, as always, is immense – you feel his pain. Now is Good joins that narrow genre of films that includes Love Story, Dying Young, The Bucket List and Hawks. In many ways it is a combination of them all. Certainly it is a vehicle for Fanning who, as the gently rebellious Tessa, affects a flawless English accent as she awaits her final sunset, but ever eager to fill up the day.