At first glance at a trailer or even poster for Before We Go, one might assume that it’s the kind of light romance that takes place between strangers who meet each other for one night, in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.
It does fit squarely into this genre, hitting all the story beats of missed trains, chances taken and what-ifs questioned. But the connection that it centers on is one that’s far more ambiguous, and therefore the depths that it plumbs bring up new and more complicated emotional revelations. It’s the more realistic, darker, sadder version of the fantasy about meeting that perfect someone by chance.
Star Chris Evans marks his directorial debut with the feature, and it’s interesting to see how a man known for playing superheroes in epic action films takes to this small slice-of-life picture, all natural lighting and street-level handheld camerawork.
His character, Nick Vaughan, still has designs on being a hero though, even admitting to that ambition. When a panicked Brooke (Alice Eve) rushes by him, missing her train and dropping her phone in the process, he takes it upon himself to protect and guide her through the odyssey of returning her back home to Boston.
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Nick himself is a bit broken, and he and Brooke, both nursing heartbreak and confusion, find connection in each other. A jazz trumpeter, he’s on his way to a life-changing audition in the morning, studiously avoiding a wedding in the city. He has his reasons for that, and she has hers for needing to get home before her husband does.
While they try and pull every trick in the book to scrounge up enough dough (her purse has conveniently been stolen), they bond during their adventures along the way — posing as a band, crashing a wedding, chasing down purse snatchers, visiting a psychic.
It’s not until the walls are broken down between them that the film really takes on an emotional resonance. After a slow start, we wonder why there’s no instant spark of chemistry and sexual tension between them like in other films of this kind; it seems like more of a friendship. But it’s the friendship they develop over the course of the night that allows them to draw closer together, to trust one another, which leads to the deeper personal bond.
There are a few profound bits of life advice, lessons learned through the hard work of time and experience. As night turns to day and the film reaches its inevitable climax and conclusion, the emotional, one-night love story between Nick and Brooke feels earned, real and life-changing for the two characters.
While this kind of tale is a fantasy for the movies, with an emphasis on realism in style and deliberately paced story, Before We Go suggests that it really can happen, even just for a fleeting moment.
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Before We Go
Director: Chris Evans
Cast: Chris Evans, Alice Eve
Rated: PG-13 (brief strong language, suggestive content)
Running time: 98 min.