When you cut the umbilical chord and straddle the slippery slope between child star and serious actress, you’re faced with certain obligations. You must cut your hair (Emma Watson post Potter) don an accent (Anne Hathaway’s terminal turn of phrase in One Day) or die (Mia Wasikowsa’s fate in Restless). In this case, 18-year old Dakota Fanning – does all three and pulls it off, too.
Fanning (Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Runaways) plays 17-year old leukemia patient Tessa, who foregoes treatment in an effort to live life to the fullest – and fast. Experimenting with drugs, breaking the law and losing her virginity top her bucket-list. Enter her eye-wateringly hot neighbor, Adam (Jeremy Irving, War Horse) and soon Tessa is experiencing the heady exhilaration of first love.
From there Parker pulls us into a whimsical ride that teeters on the overly sentimental edge. Lofty sequences show Tessa grapple with her illness swing from poignant in one moment, to cliché in the next. As Tessa contemplates her fate she wraps herself around her perfectly proportioned boyfriend who rides a motorbike along the beach into the surf. Cue a cluster of horses that canter alongside them in slow-motion, both of them smiling into the sunset, doused in sparkling back lighting.
There is a sense of easy familiarity to this film, not just because it harks back to your own first love, but because yes, you’ve seen it before (think, A Walk To Remember). But it’s the stunning supporting performances led by Paddy Considine (Cinderella Man, The Bourne Ultimatum) as Tessa’s protective father that makes you willingly give into the glazed fantasy and happily take that trip down memory lane again.
Good for: Women who want to sob as much as they did in The Notebook. Good for men who want to date these women.
Film review by Anna Tsekouras
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine | 12A | 103mins | On general release from September 19