At times Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go is reminiscent of a first date. It is charming, says all the right things, and tries hard not to show all of its cards right away. However, in its attempt to play it cool it struggles to truly separate itself from the pack. By time the date is over, you have had an enjoyable enough time, but there were no real sparks leading you to want a second date.
Similar in structure to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before We Go is one of those romantic films that takes place over the course of one night. While busking at Grand Central station, trumpet player Nick Vaughan (Chris Evans) cannot help but notice that Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve) is in distress. Missing the last train to Boston by mere minutes, and having her Prada purse stolen moments earlier, Brooke’s night seemingly cannot get any worse. Realizing she is trapped in the city with no money, the equally cash-strapped Nick offers to help the young woman hunt down her missing purse.
As the pair navigate around the city, and attempt to come up with ways to earn money to get Brooke home, their conversation moves back and forth between playful banter and revealing discourse. Nick divulges that he is supposed to be at a wedding reception in which his ex has already shown up with a new beau. Brooke, on the other hand, confesses that her entire marriage hinges on getting back home before her husband returns from a business trip.
Beneath Before We Go’s seemingly whimsical exterior – the ease in which they locate a stolen Prada purse in New York is astounding – is a tale about the choices people make in life and love. Evans’ characters are wounded souls whose emotions betray the cool façade they are trying to maintain. In their own ways both Nick and Brooke are trying to run away from decisions that they must ultimately make in their lives. The film is not so much concerned about whether or not the characters will get together, but rather can they find the courage in each other to take the plunge into the pool of uncertainty that is life.
The funny thing is that the film rarely feels the need to take that same leap itself. Instead of veering off and standing on its own, it opts to follow the road map that Woody Allen, Edward Burns, and countless other New York inspired romantics have travelled. This causes Before We Go to feel too cutesy for its own good. Lines such as when Nick proclaims “I got to be okay with not being okay” fail to deliver the emotional punch they should. Nick and Brooke may feel as if the world is crumbling around them, but the film never convinces the audience of this. Shielded in a bomb shelter made of happy coincidences, their inner turmoil does not feel as destructive as they claim it to be.
Though Nick and Brooke lack the raw depth to truly make them intriguing characters, it cannot be denied that Chris Evans and Alice Eve are charming as hell in the film. The pair make even the implausible situations that the characters find themselves in entertaining to watch. Their chemistry feels organic even when the film does not.
While Before We Go plays more like a coffee date than a romantic dinner, it cannot be denied that the film has its charms. Evans and Eve keep audience’s attentions long enough to satisfy without making them feel guilty for not calling again.