So the question is, is it ever okay to kill off your protagonist?
Let me make this clear, I think this was a great movie. I’m probably going to watch it on Netflix way too many times when it gets released. I just happen to have a strong opinion on this issue, and that opinion was tested by this movie.
I hate when people kill their protagonists. I bought the third Divergent book and originally refused to read it when the ending was spoiled by a friend. I think books should be about hope, and how you can get through any situation. But that’s another article.
So, how my opinion was tested. See, the premise of the story means the viewer is always aware that the likelihood of Sam (Zoey Deutch) dying is pretty high. I think the story might have benefitted from another ending, though. This movie was all about character growth, but no one grew as a person but Sam. When she died, all that character growth got thrown out the window. Her friends were equally as terrible as Sam, and Lindsay (Halston Sage) was undeniably worse. But none of them had the opportunity to grow as people throughout the storyline. While Sam succeeded in stopping Juliet (Elena Kampouris) from killing herself, the other girls were still around afterwards in their original form. Which meant Juliet would still be tormented, and now Sam wouldn’t be around to influence the situation in any way. Could the whole group have been aware of the groundhog day situation? Or would they have not changed then?
Wouldn’t it have been better to have Sam sustain major injuries and then wake up in hospital the next day? Even then, would Juliet have been bullied for Sam almost dying to save her? Wouldn’t the best way to help Juliet have been to work towards mending the situation between her and Lindsay? Then the other girls would have grown as characters too. It seems like Sam dying was merely to illicit a response from the viewer, merely for shock value. Which is why people usually kill their protagonists, in my opinion.
What about the boy she started seeing? Isn’t it terribly cruel to die after starting a relationship mere minutes earlier? Wouldn’t it have been more ethical to have left that scenario in a failed day of the loop? Obviously Sam didn’t intend to die but from the larger perspective of the story, the writer could have changed that. On the subject of Kent (Logan Miller), was it too cliché to have Sam realise the neglected childhood friend was ‘the one’? It’s a fan favourite and it works, but could they have left it at her realising her worth and leaving her shitty boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley), behind?
On that note, Rob was quite demonised in my opinion. Having a set time when you need to say ‘I love you’ by seems quite juvenile and while, yes, this is a movie about people in high school so that’s somewhat fitting it’s nonetheless not a view I would suggest promoting. People say those words in their own time, and Rob and Sam had been together for over a year so obviously Rob had feelings for her even if he wasn’t ready to call it love. Rob’s character seemed to jump rather suddenly from a mildly-distant and immature (though arguably not for his age) boyfriend to seemingly only having dated Sam for a year so he could have sex with her. Though he’s supposedly in high demand so why would he bother with that when he can get it elsewhere if that’s all he’s after? In their first scene together he seems arguably quite loving.
I’m not saying that Rob didn’t have his flaws as a boyfriend, but for a movie all about character development some of the characters seem quite contrived. Though like I said before, I still liked this movie. Stereotypes exist in novels and film because they work and because consumers can relate, however when it comes to gender stereotypes like those exhibited in Kent and Rob we should really be moving past that.
Less seriously, why didn’t she change her outfit more regularly? No one said you had to wear that every day, Sam. Why would you want to wear the outfit you died in over and over again?
On the casting, I thought Zoey Deutch was great. She’s proven time and time again she’s more than capable of portraying a multi-dimensional, likeable and relatable character. My only issue was with her and Logan Miller’s scenes, which sometimes came off as cheesy. But in my opinion that usually stems from an issue with the script, and nonetheless I found myself wanting them to be together. Halston Sage was brilliant as Lindsay, with just the right amount of vulnerability in her performance to make her cruel character likable for being the girl from the broken home who shows up every morning with breakfast, even if she calls people names. My personal favourite, however, was Erica Tremblay. She was fantastic. Her brother, Jacob, blew me away in Room and obviously the talent is genetic. Tremblay was brilliant as Sam’s younger sister, Izzy, and the dynamic between her and Deutch was the best in the movie.
Cinematography and set design deserves a mention too. The opening and end scenes were beautiful and the smorgasbord of lighting inside Kent’s party made me glad the plot centred around going back there again and again. Coloured lighting and fairy lights get me every time. Kent’s bedroom wall was designed well and believable for a teenage boy while also cleverly serving as a visual nod to the point of the story, and the bathroom writing was a nice touch too.
This was first published on QUT Universe, if you'd like to see more of my content from the site check out this link.