– Summary –
Director : Chris Evans
Year Of Release : 2015
Principal Cast : Chris Evans, Alice Eve, Emma Fitzpatrick, Mark Kassen, Daniel Spink, Elijah Moreland.
Approx Running Time : 95 Minutes
Synopsis: A young woman in New York City races to catch the 1:30 train to Boston. On the way she is robbed. She is lost in the dark underbelly of New York at night with nothing and no one.
What we think : Endearing, well acted romantic drama from Chris Evans has some sweet moments, brings its journeyman narrative to some peaks and troughs of character-driven humanity with style and soft-footed charm.
Missing a train can be a bitch.
A while ago, Captain America star Chris Evans told the media that once his contract was up on the Marvel films he was signed for, he’d retire from acting and take up his passion, which was directing. It would appear that we have our first taste of a post-Marvel Evans in Before We Go, a small scale New York set drama film co-starring both the director and Alice Eve, better known for her work in She’s Out Of My League as well as Star Trek Into Darkness. And while there’s nary a spandex outfit of alien explosion to be seen, Before We Go offers a whole load of Americana romance and the charming chemistry of the two leads as they stroll the streets of New York. It’s low key, it’s well directed, and it’s utterly enjoyable.
Before We Go strikes me as hugely familiar – anybody who’s seen one of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy films will understand the walk-and-talk sensibility of Evans’ debut film; two characters simply bonding over a mutual ambulation through the canyons of one of the world’s great cities. Evans plays Nick Vaughan, a trumpet player busking in Grand Central when he meets Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve), who has just been robbed and has no money to get where she needs to go. Overcome by philanthropic emotion, Nick decides to help Brooke (who calls herself Carrie initially, after Sex & The City’s Carrie Bradshaw) even though she distrusts him. Needing to get to Boston by morning, Nick tries to raise enough cash to get Brooke back on the road.
Written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Ron Bass (Rain Man), Before We Go’s journey narrative, onion-like revelatory drama and clash-of-personality frisson is pleasantly diminutive compared to bulkier star-studded efforts, but the small scope of the film’s focus allows us to really get into both Evans and Eve’s characters. As Nick works on a few plans to get Brooke to Boston, their conversations slowly unwrap their insecurities and emotional baggage, bringing them (and us) closer together. It’s a simple, unremarkable concept that isn’t entirely new, but Evans makes it work through a genuine sense of chemistry with his co-star.
With New York being such an iconic city, much of what makes this film work is its location. Although entirely set at night, the city’s “never sleeps” attitude keeps the story pulsing through the beauty of the backdrop it provides. This isn’t “fantasy” New York, this is “real” New York, the piss-stained staircases and alleyways lit with neon and fluorescence, ripe with humanity and madness. The smudgy nature of dingy city life rubs up against the film’s cobbling emotional languidity, like skin prickles and spinal shivers the film affects you at an almost unconscious level. It’s effective – perhaps it’s the inherent romance of the city itself, but Before We Go ekes out a kind of serendipitous enjoyment through sheer location, which only heightens the added enjoyment of the performances and story.
Comparative statements between similarly themed films usually gall me, because they end up being an easy “out” for poor critical thinking. But I’m gonna compare Before We Go to Linklater’s Before series – specifically the first, Before Sunrise. Nick and Brooke’s relationship parallels that of Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply’s from Linklater’s walk-n-talk classic; they’re strong characters individually, and although initially clashing there’s a sense of fate, a sense of determinism that brings them together, and keeps them together. Before We Go isn’t quite as foundationally strong as Linklater’s work, at least in its conversational aspects, but manages to be solid based on the chemistry between Evans and Eve, who have a nice, buddy-comedy kinda rapport when the film allows it.
People who see echoes of Before Sunrise in Before We Go (from its similarly titled headline) have motive to perhaps feel gypped, but they should not – Before We Go offers a more American slant on relational issues, rather than Linklater’s European-esque ones, and in that difference I think this film is the equal of previous takes on the genre. Before We Go is a slow-burn candle of romantic, dramatic fidelity, a solidly performed, well directed character study that offers a glimpse into the human condition. It’s not a classic film by any stretch, I think it’s too simplistic for that, but Evans’ debut isn’t an abyss of talent. He’s obviously learned from those he’s worked with – Whedon, the Russo boys – and gives this film a remarkably salient sense of self involvement. Before We Go is thoroughly enjoyable romantic idealism, a whimsical, often painful, journey into the darker aspects of interpersonal relationships. Worth a look.