Before Chris Evans starred in “Fantastic Four” or donned the garb of Captain America, he appeared in a film called “London.” In retrospect, the movie would be off color for him…not a lot of machismo or tough guy banter. No heroics. It was a film draped in melancholy, a film that chose exposition and the exorcism of personal demons over action or plot. What’s more, it showed Evans can act, quite well, when he chooses good roles. The film was released in 2005; it was bitter, biting, and morose.
Now, in 2014, we have a directorial effort by – and starring – Chris Evans called “Before We Go.” The film finds the same Chris Evans we saw in “London,” except this time he’s a little less bitter, a little more hopeful, and a lot wiser. He’s the kind of guy who broods in train stations close to closing time, avoiding the thought of a party and seeing his ex; but also the guy who isn’t shy to help a woman (Alice Eve) that seems to be in trouble. She’s lost her purse, he wants to help her find it. But circumstance – and the film – have more in store for them.
“Before We Go” is indie through and through – and that’s a compliment. It’s a romantic drama, sort of, but puts all its cards into its story, which is tight, realistic, and bittersweet. It’s written by Ron Bass, who won an Oscar for his writing on “Rain Man,” and Jennifer Smolka, who only has one other writing credit to her name, the short “The Good Cook.” The two work well with Evans, and combined create an experience that is wistful and wise.
“Before We Go” is that type of movie – like “Garden State,” or the excellent indie “LiveLove” that wants us to know its characters. We’ve all seen romantic dramas before. You know, the ones where the guy gets the girl, or the girl gets the guy, one or the other completing impossible feats to win the other’s affection. But we don’t see a whole lot of movies where they guy and girl get to know each other first, where we, as the audience, get to know them, get to decide if they like each other or we like them before throwing some romantic drama into the mix. This is where “Before We Go” excels.
The acting in the film is pleasing, most of it is confined to Evans and Eve, who have terrific chemistry together. Both are hiding from demons of their own, but to talk about these is to spoil the charm of this movie, a charm present from beginning to end.
For a film directed by Evans that also stars Evans, I was impressed that he never once hogs the show, never once makes the movie about him. He’s a musician, and an avoider; she’s a art appraiser and a runner. The two make a good pair together, and cinematographer John Guneserian invites us into their world with ease. The film takes place in New York City, but aside from a couple of skyscraper shots and images of Chinatown, the film is cast in a blanket of anonymity as we follow Nick and Brooke through a movie that takes place all in one night. The city becomes theirs, and we get very little interaction with other people aside from strangers – and a few brief interactions with Nick’s friends – that but further the plot along.
The dialogue is decent, but not perfect. At times it seems to flow naturally, at other times feels like a screenplay. The beginning of the film tests the dialogue tepidly as Nick and Brooke feel each other out…who they are, what they want and need, why they maintain their brief friendship. However, in the second and third act of the film the story picks up, and we’re aware we’re watching something wonderful unfold: real emotion. Probably the best instance of this is when Nick urges Brooke to pick up a pay phone and call her past self. What would she warn her past self of? he asks. The scene is comical, while being a little telling. However, when Nick picks up the phone at the movie’s near close, it’s not comical. It’s all heart, and snares us hook, line, and sinker on its emotional impact.
I liked this movie. It has all the naturalness and introspection that makes indies great, while also offering a different side to Evans than we are used to seeing. Eve, coming off of 2013’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness” does a fine job going line for line with Evans, and they invite us into a picture that is warm and pleasing; sad yet hopeful. It’s slow to start, but if you can wade through some early pacing issues, you’ll find a film worth watching.
– by Mark Ziobro