A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Now Is Good is a tearjerker that explores the dying wishes and goals of a 17-year-old girl with leukemia who has forgone chemotherapy and wants to experience some wild living before she dies. It deals with mature themes about illness and loss (with one fairly graphic extreme nosebleed), teenage sexuality, as well as mild drug use and some illegal activity -- all of which are portrayed as both negative in terms of risk, but positive in terms of the sense of having lived a full life overall. In spite of the provocative nature of the premise, it's an incredibly uplifting, complex, and sweet film that packs a lot of innocence and meaning about the big questions, though it does likely sanitize the true nature of illness.
What's the story?
Tessa Scott (Dakota Fanning) has leukemia, and has forgone treatment. Knowing she doesn't have much life left, she at first devises a bucket list of every imaginable thrill she can experience before time runs out -- trying drugs, losing her virginity, stealing, and falling in love with neighbor Adam (Jeremy Irvine). But while her mom (Olivia Williams) struggles to accept the reality of Tessa's condition, and her dad (Paddy Considine) grows increasingly fearful of losing her, Tessa learns a lot about what it really means to live and love.
Is it any good?
Adapted from Jenny Downham's novel Before I Die, the film is beautifully shot and superbly acted. If there was ever a way to explore the less comfortable side of healthy teenage desire -- to explore the world, to test boundaries, to take big risks, to live a little dangerously -- without the usual fear of worst-case scenarios or squeamishness, NOW IS GOOD is it, if only because the presence of terminal illness makes such risks seem like a quaint and necessary part of having lived. The movie shows a confrontational and sometimes dark but often humorous and wildly tender look at what it means to be alive, and, ultimately, what it means to die, all through the eyes of a teenager and those closest to her.
Tessa's quest to fulfill her bucket list -- at first filled with wild and predictable thrills, but eventually shifting to the sweeter, quiet moments only nature and family provide -- offers an excellent source of discussion with teenagers about the things that matter most in life at a time when imagining past the next hour is often difficult. It's a brutally direct film that's hard to watch because it never pulls its punches about dying, but this makes it especially beautiful -- not to mention a near-constant tearjerker, even when it's upbeat. Full box of tissue required.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bucket lists. What are some of the things you'd like to do in your lifetime?
How does Tessa's list change over the course of her illness? Why do you think it changed?
Everyone had a different way of responding to Tessa's illness -- some by doing everything they could to help, some by ignoring it. Why do you think people have such different responses?
- On DVD or streaming: January 18, 2013
- Cast: Dakota Fanning, Olivia Williams, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine
- Director: Alex Kurtzman
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving illness, sexuality, and drugs, and for brief strong language.
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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