Chris Evans has come a long way from routinely being the best part of whatever mediocre movie he’s in. Since coming into the role of Professional Nazi Puncher Captain America, he’s found himself in progressively more interesting roles (and more interesting films), and now, finally, is directing his own movie. Before We Go, initially given the at-least-more-memorable title of 1:30 Train, originally premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014. Now it’s seeing a wide release, acting as both the quintessential date movie you’ve seen a thousand times and an opportunity for Evans to show off how pretty a shot he can make.
Nick (Chris Evans) is tooting on his trumpet in Grand Central Station when Brooke (Alice Eve) dashes past and her phone hits the floor, spectacularly breaking into pieces. She’s missed the train, her phone is broken, and someone stole her purse; she has no means to get back to Boston, leaving her stranded in NYC. Nick tries to help, but to no avail; his credit cards are declined and all he’s got going for him is a wedding reception he’s avoiding, and an audition the following day. Together, these two blue-eyed pretty people must work out some of their pre-existing relationship baggage and figure out a way home.
Setting aside the fact that the “brief encounter” schtick is almost always unrealistic (most women do not want to be approached by strange men they don’t know for really any reason, especially if they are alone and without resources in a large city), this is probably the most realistic version of that schtick I’ve seen. There are no flagrant moments of passion, no declarations of love within 24 hours of meeting, just two people whose lives are a mess and are trying to help each other through it. Even the moments of explicitly romantic tension are few, and are often stopped halfway through by one of the characters, citing that they’re not ready. What they really mean is, “I need a friend and not a lover right now,” which is probably the finest lesson a romcom can convey: love doesn’t fix everything, and a friend can often do more for you when you need romantic counsel.
While the script is a good organic romantic comedy, it is also exactly an organic romantic comedy; very little unexpected happens here. Fortunately, the main performers are Chris Evans and Alice Eve, so what the film lacks in surprises and originality it largely makes up in charisma. Unsurprisingly, both Evans and Eve have a lot of practice being pretty white people falling in love in front of a camera, and they bring their usual charm to Nick and Brooke. Eve perhaps has the more difficult job; while Nick is a sarcastic do-gooder carrying a torch for a lost love, Brooke is filled with conflicting emotions about whether to carry on in her marriage, balancing emotional moments about her husband with a steely “ice queen” personality in a way that makes her both proud and vulnerable in turn.
But, if this film is largely an audition for Chris Evans as a director, I’d have to say he passed. Evans loves to make a pretty picture, and utilizes the lights of New York as much as possible to create something lovely from a shoot that only lasted 19 days. He particularly enjoys framing faces, and emphasizes Nick and Brooke’s contemplations by framing them through the lettering on windows, wreathing them in the lights of Manhattan, or choosing to deprive us of their face in favor of their gestures, depending on the mood. Give the man another script, and let him make another movie; I suspect he may have a penchant for filming drama that ought to be explored.
Taking a few cues from films like Before Sunrise and allowing these characters to exist as something close to people rather than romcom ideals, and giving them the artistic space for us to view them as people, Before We Go is a sweet little date movie for people who know that starting a new relationship means you have to close the door on the old ones first. If you’re looking to take pleasure or comfort in another’s company, Before We Go is ample viewing; if you’re looking to have your mind blown, look somewhere else.Liked This? Share It!