Adapting from Jenny Downham's novel 'Before I Die', Ol Parker directs a Brighton-set drama of life lived to the full and death come early.
"Moments", begins the voice-over at the beginning of Now Is Good. "This is one. This, right here, right now, is definitely a moment." It will take a few of these moments before the speaker will come into focus as Tessa (Dakota Fanning), a 17-year-old intent on losing her virginity that very night with one of the two boys that she and her best friend Zoey (Kaya Scodelario) have pulled for this express purpose - but it will be a few moments more before we realise that Tessa's headlong rush through adolescent rites of passage is no mere youthful impulse to live fast (and perhaps die young); rather she is desperately clambering to embrace the fullness of life via a 'bucket list' of essential experiences before she succumbs to the leukaemia that is rapidly killing her.
Cinema, too, deals in heightened moments of drama (recast as 'scenes'), selected and intensified to carry a narrative forward through a finite timeframe, making it an ideal platform for a lyrical exploration of mortality like Now Is Good - but cinema also tends to replace ugly realities with palatable wish fulfilment, and to sanitise death (something that writer/director Ol Parker certainly did in his recent adapted screenplay for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
Fortunately the same is not true here as, determined to go out on her own terms, rude, difficult Tessa refuses to play the saintly victim or to let others impose upon her their own feelings of helplessness or denial. Even if her father (Paddy Considine) clings vainly to the possibility of a cure, Tessa accepts the truth from the outset, and the film, faithful to its protagonist's pragmatism, admits no miraculous reversals. Here, the unexpected love that she finds with neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine) - himself already touched by his father's recent death - is doomed to be short-lived, and the dreamy images of life extending into a long-haired, idealised future are reflections of a morphine-addled state near an end that is coming all too prematurely.
Yet if Tessa's chances of survival are considerably less than 50/50, like that film Now Is Good portrays the stages along a cancer patient's journey without ever losing sight of the stresses on those being left behind. It is ultimately, inevitably, a tear jerker, but those tears never feel that they are coming cheap.
Boasting a brilliantly prickly performance from Dakota Fanning (complete with convincing English accent), Now Is Good sees the terminal illness movie come of age.