Friday, September 4, 2015

Before We Go: Movie Review

A simple conversation becomes fun, funny and romantic with two great characters.

Before We Go is simple, romantic, talkative, conventional and it's great. It's exactly what you want in a character-based, dialogue-driven romantic drama where nothing happens other than two characters meet and get to know each other over one night in New York City. The characters are engagingly real, compassionate and yet cynical, and they beautifully evolve after knowing each other for just a few hours. The dialogue is witty and insightful and elevated to dynamic levels by the talented leads. 2014

Directed by: Chris Evans

Screenplay by: Ron Bass, Jen Smolka, Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair

Starring: Chris Evans and Alice Eve

It's been compared to Richard Linklater's beginning of the Before trilogy, Before Sunrise. The comparisons are valid on pretty much every level since they're both independent romantic dramas featuring two strangers that meet in a city neither live in, talk for the next hour and a half and by morning have formed into two wonderfully exciting characters that have fallen in love and still have the rest of their lives to live. Even if Sunrise has been praised to a level that Before We Go can't hope to match, it's still a very flattering comparison.

Nick (Chris Evans) is alone in Grand Central Station and we get the fairly obvious hint that he was hoping to meet a girl of some significance to him. Brooke (Alice Eve) is alone and frantic in Grand Central Station after failing to catch her train back home to Boston. Her story proves to be more interesting in the immediate future since she was robbed at a local bar before coming to the station and has only a now-useless ticket and is in desperate need to get back home. Nick decides to be a gregarious stranger and tries to come up with solutions to Brooke's predicament.

The little adventures that Nick gets them involved in in his quest to help her are interesting and funny enough to keep our attention. But even better, as these things go, once Brooke and Nick start getting to know each other, we start getting to know them as well. And before you know it, the audience is completely invested in learning even more about these characters. I wanted Nick and Brooke to just sit down in front of me and tell them me everything that makes them who they are. And the movie comes just short of doing exactly that and strikes a perfect balance between keeping the plot moving (finding a way for Brooke to get home) and revealing the important moments in the characters' lives.

Brooke and Nick both feel like very real and modern people. The various choices they make regarding each other as strangers and the possibly dangerous situations they find themselves in really seem to fit the current landscape we live in. There are no current events or social markers to make it now, it just feels real. Like Before Sunrise. Brooke and Nick are never going to become the iconic characters that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's Jesse and Celine have become, but also note that it's been 20 years since they were first introduced and Brooke and Nick probably weren't even teenagers yet. Their time is now.

Nick is exactly the type of character that I've wanted to see Chris Evans play. He wants to appear strong and capable in front of Brooke (kind of like his superhero roles), but he's also apprehensive and incapable of living up to his potential. In addition to that he gets to deliver some very funny lines and he gets to be a romantic leading man. Alive Eve gets to play Brooke a little mysteriously and really has fun once she's less trepidatious about meeting a stranger.

It's intriguing that Chris Evans chose this movie as his directorial debut especially considering how much he can add to a little character indie flick. I particularly loved the little call-outs the screenplay made at times to Nick wanting to be a hero to Brooke. It's time for Evans to play a hero in the real world and not a superhero in the Captain America universe which brought him fame. Although the stylistic choices to liven the film up by overlaying dialogue with silent scenes weren't necessary since the characters were interesting enough on their own.

Before We Go has two interesting and likable – and romantic – characters that you won't want to see them go either. Their night becomes our night. A night filled with fun and adventure and romance even though it's just a simple conversation.
Best of 2015