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'Now Is Good' review

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You'd never expect preternaturally talented child star and Youngest Ever SAG Nominee Dakota Fanning to be the weak link in any cast, but she comes close in Ol Parker's tear-duct time bomb of a romantic drama. She's not giving a bad performance by any stretch, but her character Tessa - a 17-year-old with terminal leukaemia and a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll-based bucket list - is a prickly and often chilly presence, easy to sympathise with but tough to love.

It's thanks largely to a grounded turn from Paddy Considine as Tessa's denial-stricken dad that Now Is Good sustains as much emotional impact as it does. He can generally be relied upon for nuanced anguish whether in front of the camera or behind it, but there's a third-act scene here that's knock-down devastating even by his standards. There's ample support too from Olivia Williams as Tessa's flighty mother, and Wuthering Heights star Kaya Scodelario as her more rebellious best friend.

Now Is Good, Paddy Considine, Dakota Fanning
And then there's the requisite strapping, sun-kissed hunk in the form of War Horse's Jeremy Irvine, who waltzes beatifically onto the scene just in time to help Tessa tick off the 'virginity' checkbox on her list, along with the somewhat less edgy 'making snow angels' and 'riding a motorbike by sunset' boxes.

As hackneyed as these later points make the central doomed romance sound, it's subtly acted by both Fanning and Irvine, who seem to realise that the only way to work with material this potentially melodramatic is to underplay.

And the whimsy is punctuated too by regular intermissions of stark reality - Tessa's initial attempt to rid herself of the V card is refreshingly subdued, while her breathless preparation for a date with Irvine's Adam is cut bloodily short, a rare moment in which the physical realities of her illness make themselves felt.

All that being said, writer-director Parker makes one or two serious missteps. Most notably there's a weirdly misjudged 'circle of life' plotline involving Scodelario's character that's at once mawkish and dimly offensive - if you're anything other than fervently pro-life, beware. And while Tessa's frosty demeanour isn't unreasonable given her circs, the character feels so remote that you never get much insight into her inner struggle. It's one thing to have come to terms with your own mortality, but she's painted as sanguine to the point of sacrificing emotional depth.

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