‘Before We Go’ Lacks Heat

A lack of romantic chemistry between the leads makes the film a lot less compelling than it really ought to be.

Chris Evans’ directorial debut, Before We Go, feels very much like an actor’s tentative stab into the world of feature film directing. It is modest in scope, and relies mainly on the handling of performances. Because its ambitions are pretty small, there isn’t really a whole lot that the film can get wrong. And in the end, it is largely watchable and inoffensive. But it doesn’t quite mean that the film gets things right. A lack of romantic chemistry between the leads makes the film a lot less compelling than it really ought to be.

We first meet Nick (Chris Evans) as he’s playing his trumpet in Grand Central Station in New York City. Brooke (Alice Eve) misses the last train out to Boston. She’s had her purse stolen, and can’t get the money together to make it back home to Massachusetts. Nick decides to try and help her out. They go on a series of misadventures in the city as they try to find a way to get Brooke back home. Along the way, it is slowly revealed that both of them are nursing heartache, and they’re both on a precipice of choices that could change their lives forever.

It’s nothing too complicated. Over the course of the night, the two of them reveal small details about what’s weighing them down. There is some pleasure derived from the discovery of their stories, so it is likely best to skirt around the specifics of their story. The film builds a narrative around those problems, the two helping each other to deal with their respective heartaches, mostly through the sound advice of facing them rather than running away.

And of course, it follows that the film suggests some sort of romantic spark between the two. And here is where the film really falters. There is just no romantic chemistry between the two leads. Chris Evans directs himself pretty well, and gives himself ever opportunity to show his dramatic range. He also affords Alice Eve the same benefit, and she largely takes advantage of it with a fairly charming performance. But the two don’t read as a potential romantic couple in the film. They read as pals at best. It doesn’t quite feel right for them to be kissing. There’s just so little heat in their interactions. The movie might as well have ended with the two of them high-fiving each other.

As a director, Evans is solid, but he’s clearly just getting the hang of things. He doesn’t really try anything fancy. He favors close-ups, as most actors-turned-directors do, giving focus to the performances. He mostly exhibits a strong grasp of tone, the film largely able to shift between comedic banter and emotional confession. He just isn’t able to sell the chemistry between him and his co-star. There are also a few quirks in the camera work. There are a couple of instances in the film where the camera is being shaken around for no good reason. It’s distracting, and it takes away from what the actors are doing on screen.

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Before We Go is a very small film, and that certainly works in the favor of a first-time director. There’s just so much less to get wrong. There is a modicum of charm to these proceedings, the film exhibiting a certain restraint that is often missing from the films of seasoned vets of the industry. But it would be a stretch to call it good. At best, it is curiously tentative, the film gaining some appeal from the knowledge that this is a director trying to figure things out. But it is also pretty tepid and painfully trite at points. And there’s just nothing between the two leads, leaving little tension for the story as it moves into its resolutions.

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Movie Info

Before We Go
Comedy | Drama | Romance

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