There are a lot of flaws to the film, but to me the problems are mostly overshadowed by its good intentions. This no-budget drama is the feature debut of director Matt Walting, so I think it’s necessary to take this into consideration as the cast and crew are very new to filmmaking and are still finding their feet. However, as I mentioned, the good intentions behind the film are clear (and it did a better job at representing suicidal teens than ’13 Reasons Why’ did in the process), and despite sometimes feeling more like a soap opera, it stuck the landing with the ending…as much as I hate to admit it, I got a bit teary-eyed too.
At times, some of the acting isn’t great as most of the people in it don’t have much experience, but Eichenberger and MacKenzie overall do a good job. As the film went on, Sarah’s frustrations with Jesse and the burden he’s put on her by sharing his plans becomes more and more tangible and the stakes feel higher. I really liked Jesse’s portrayal as being so nonchalant and matter-of-fact about his suicide plan, cementing the idea that this is something he feels has to be done and is inevitable for him. As an audience member, it’s easy to be put in Sarah’s position; she’s positive about life, encouraging Jesse to wait to see what the world has to offer him, except he just can’t see things the way she does.
In terms of the technical side of things, there’s some problems with dubbing (however, not the worst I’ve seen), and the lighting in some shots (particularly for interior scenes taking place in Jesse’s bedroom). Some people might also take issue with the handheld style some of the film uses, which tends to try and track the characters as they move, but I actually thought this style felt right for the tone and made it seem more personal.
Overall, despite its problems, I think ‘Just Say Goodbye’ deserves props for dealing with such a sensitive subject matter in the way that it did. It isn’t exploitative, and literally just seems to want to share the message that even if it takes horrible things to happen for people to want to change, it is possible, as well as identifying the warning signs in young people who may want to commit suicide. I respect Walting’s ambition and am excited to see what he does in the future as it’s obvious he has a lot of potential as a director.