Forgetting to bring tissues to this weepie is the definition of schoolgirl error. Schoolgirls, you see, will be hauling industrial crates of Kleenex into cinemas. They’ll be blubbing gleefully as Dakota Fanning, starring as Tessa, a 17-year-old Brighton girl dying prettily of leukaemia, stares into the eyes of her hot neighbour (Jeremy Irvine). Yes, it’s as mawkishly manipulative as all that. Yes, I was reaching for the sleeve of my cardie.
The film is based on a teen novel by Jenny Downham, and director Ol Parker has administered a sugar-coated pill to it. He wrote ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and this is likewise hellbent on inspiring a rush of wind-beneath-my-wings, life-affirming feeling. But it’s decently acted. Fanning does an impeccable English accent as Tessa, who was diagnosed with leukaemia at 13. Four years later she’s refused treatment that may prolong her life – with nasty side effects. Instead, she’s ploughing through a bucket list of must-dos: losing her virginity, taking drugs. It’s a subtle turn from Fanning. Essentially a good girl, Tessa is wise to the ways she can use her illness as a weapon against her parents: seriously, what’s the worst you can do to punish me? And the film’s mostly watchable until she starts a cloying relationship with the boy next door (Irvine).
Still, if you’re the wet sort who can’t help but sob, go prepared. I was holding up until Paddy Considine – he could read the shipping forecast with a sad face and have me in tears – made an appearance as Tessa’s dad.