Toronto Film Review: ‘Before We Go’

'Before We Go' Review: Chris Evans'

Two pleasant but not especially interesting strangers walk and talk the night away in Chris Evans' lukewarm directorial debut.

A missed train sets the stage for Chris Evans’ directorial debut, “Before We Go,” but dramatically speaking, this talky, contrived and ultimately tedious actors’ exercise never leaves the station. While Evans deserves credit for wanting to reveal a more serious, thoughtful side to himself than the Marvel universe will allow, a tepid homage (in title and form) to Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s “Before” trilogy may not have been the best idea. It’s tough to see this late-festival Toronto premiere (picked up by Radius-TWC for a 2015 release) gaining any real critical or commercial traction. Dear Captain America: Don’t quit your day job just yet.

Saddled with a fundamentally dull, obvious script credited to “Rain Man” scribe Ron Bass and three other writers, Evans casts himself as Nick, a trumpet player on the eve of a career-making audition who just happens to be busking in the resonant corridors of Grand Central Station when the beautiful, flustered Brooke (Alice Eve) passes through in a blur, rushing to make the 1:30 a.m. train to New Haven — but alas, not quite fast enough. So Evans’ hipster knight in flannel armor offers to help this clearly distressed damsel, whose purse has been stolen and whose cell phone is conveniently bust.

Long on charm but short on cash, Nick can offer Brooke only maxed-out credit cards and a protective arm around her shoulder as they set off through the Manhattan mean streets in search of her errant Prada bag. Thus the stage is set for a long night of walking and talking amid the pre-dawn neon and manhole steam. They’re like many a couple one might pass in New York en route to the subway after a late night out — except that Evans requires you to spend a very long 90 minutes in their none-too-interesting company.

After some initial hesitation (on her part), these two wayward souls begin to bare themselves to one another. She’s an art buyer in town to close a deal, while hubby is away on business (read: monkey business) in Atlanta. He’s still on the rebound from a bad breakup — he was about to propose, she called it quits — and has spent the night avoiding a friend’s wedding reception where he might bump into … sorry, dozed off there for a sec. Various low-key hijinks ensue, including Nick’s ill-fated attempt to rescue Brooke’s pesky purse from the clutches of some Chinatown black marketeers, a mildly amusing scene in which the couple pose as the musical entertainment at a posh hotel party, and a visit to a storefront psychic (the great John Cullum, by far the liveliest presence here) who knows exactly what folks want to hear. But mostly, the script labors to keep these travelers together (and away from credit lines and phone chargers) as they prattle on about their hopes, their fears, all the wrong decisions they’ve made in their thirtysomething lives, and the meaning of the word “depaysment.” For those who don’t know, it’s French for “a screenwriter’s heavy hand.”

From the minute Hawke’s Jesse and Delpy’s Celine first spied each other on board that Vienna-bound train some 20 years ago now, they seemed like two vibrantly real, complex individuals sharing a passionate connection of body and mind. But “Before We Go’s” Nick and Brooke never seem much more real or complex than the smiling suburbanites in the Sunday-circular ads, their myriad crises plastered on top rather than felt from within. Even when Evans tries to inject some suspense into the proceedings by giving Brooke a secret reason for needing to be home before daybreak, you never really feel there’s much at stake. The other big question — will these lonelyhearts eventually throw caution to the wind and bed down together? — generates even less heat.

Fleet location lensing by d.p. John Guleserian (“Like Crazy”) stands out among generally solid production values.

Toronto Film Review: 'Before We Go'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 5, 2014. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production

A Radius-TWC release of a Wonderland Sound & Vision presentation of a Wonderland Sound & Vision/RSVP Entertainment Production. (International sales: Sierra/Affinity, Beverly Hills.) Produced by Chris Evans, Mark Kassen, McG, Mary Viola, Karen Baldwin, Howard Baldwin, William J. Immerman. Executive producers, Peter Pastorelli, James McGough, Ron Bass. Co-producers, Mark W. Olsen, Nathan Stadler, Chris Shafer, Paul Vicknair.

Crew

Directed by Chris Evans. Screenplay, Ron Bass, Jen Smolka, Chris Shafer, Paul Vicknair; story, Bass, Smolka. Camera (color), John Guleserian; editor, John Axelrad; music, Chris Westlake; music supervisor, Andrea Von Foerster; production designer, Theresa Guleserian; art director, Arthur Jongewaard; set decorator, Daniel River Kersting; costume designer, Anney Perrine; sound, Jerry Stein; supervising sound editor, Trip Brock; re-recording mixer, Kelly Vandever; assistant director, Sheri Davani; casting, Amanda Mackey, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Rebecca Gushin.

With

Chris Evans, Alice Eve, Emma Fitzpatrick, John Cullum, Mark Kassen, Elijah Morelan, Daniel Spink, Alan Cox.

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  1. Diana says:

    I loved the movie. It was wonderful to see the characters to develop, as they revealed more about themselves to each other. They both cared deeply for each other. I would go as far as to say they fell in love.
    I would have liked to see a different ending. It was a bit ambivalent. One can just guess as to what Nick wrote on that paper. It caused my heart to ache for them.

  2. Ricky says:

    I extremely disagree with the critics,
    This a really great film ,
    everything about the film is just perfect to me.
    It’s actually one of the best romance films ever! It’s a really beautiful,well written and well directed film!
    Thank You Chris Evan and Ronald Bass for this one 💐

  3. D says:

    A lot of the critics who hold negative opinions in regard to this movie come off, without fail, as angry, and it’s rather upsetting. What happened to objectivity?

    Although the movie is not some magnum opus, entirely original plot/film, it was well done, both in direction, pace, story telling, and the nature of the atmosphere.

    Was it a stellar, movie for the ages? No.
    Was it a masterpiece directorial debut? No.

    He’ll find his stride sooner or later, but given what it is, it was a good film, and I’m sure many fans would agree. The critics on the other hand? Well, someone has to play devil’s advocate from time to time. Let’s not forget, the majority of critics, at the end of the day, are nothing more than those who can’t do, with over-inflated egos.
    Sooner or later, with all the mass data on viewer opinions and the like, critics will simply be a festering group engaging in nothing more than hive-mind, cyclical thinking.

  4. TrevorH says:

    Now i dont care about this, i am earning average $5500 a month. There is very useful way i found on the internet. If you want to learn it too, simply type in google: Willis Mounts Strategy

  5. Melat Terefe says:

    I don’t understand why all the critics are hard on Chris Evans, for his first movie directing I believe he did well, it was original and raw. So really give him a break and appreciate his work.

  6. One of the best romantic movies I’ve seen in a long time. Chris Evans surprised me. I will deffinitelly follow his movies from now on. I dissagree with reviews like “he saw Before sunrise, tried to follow it and failed”. Or “it is a poor film”… What? Everybody is a film critic nowadays. I think C.E. did an amazing job doing this. Romance in universal, not all romantic stories can be entirely original. It’s the way it makes you feel watching it that matters. And this movie does an outstanding job at that. Also it’s the way you tell a story that matters, and that is the hand of the Director. Criticize him for that if you can. Apart from the night seeming to be endless (too many things happen in one night and all in such a huge city) , there is absolutelly nothing else I could say that he did wrong as a director.
    I personally preffer romantic comedies, and other genres, but every now and then I feel like watching something like this, and I am glad I did watch this one.

  7. anonymus says:

    I also see that movie if it comes to premiere in Spain. Do not understand why the critics are so hard on Chris Evans is a good actor and film making are not bad, Hollywood does nothing but create sequences from other films, Chris only looking originality with different scripts.

    • John says:

      They are going to be hard on it because it’s a very poor film and he directed it. That’s how it’s worked for decades. There is nothing original about it. He clearly saw Before Sunrise and tried to follow its “model” and failed.

  8. John says:

    Arguably the worst film at the festival. Don’t give up though, Chris.

  9. Anna says:

    Completly Disagree ! BEFORE WE GO is sweet & charming Movie.

    • Mark J Powell says:

      I agree anna, this a great film, because it did exactly what was intended: it left me wanting more. Bravo Chris Evans!!!!! Sequel please…

  10. sam says:

    I’m so proud of Chris evans for taking such a bold decision.i’m definitely going to watch this movie.

  11. Hardball says:

    Hey Scott, you are a favorite critic, so don’t get me wrong, but ripping Evans with “Cpt. America, don’t quit your day job” might be snarky funny but it is also over the line. Don’t hate success. Don’t pigeon hole creatives. The only failure is not trying. You may be grumpy because you had to sit through his directorial debut and then had to review it, but you probably also have a few un-produced screenplays on your hard drive, too.

    • whatsinaname says:

      No, there is such a thing as trying and failing, and we really need to come back to grips with that. Instead, I would say that there’s nothing wrong with trying, and there’s nothing wrong with critics calling it as they see it, either. Life is success and failure, and if you’re going to sell your work to the public, you going to have to take criticism now and then.

      Yet when actors get negative or lukewarm reviews for their directorial debuts, I’ve noticed there are always some people who assume it’s a case of sour grapes on the part of the critics. Why? Isn’t it more likely that the critic simply didn’t think the movie was that good? If there’s any bias here, I’d think it’s more on the part of fans who let their admiration of an actor and the actor’s efforts supersede any objective opinion about the actor’s directing.

      But if people got an A for effort rather than merit, there would be no point in film reviews and film critique. Just because we may admire or support an actor embarking as a director, doesn’t mean we should grade their work on a curve. That would be a disservice to the filmmaker, the audience and cinema.

      And for what it’s worth, I notice Scott Foundas recently gave a very positive review for Jon Stewart’s directing debut “Rosewater.” Doesn’t seem to me like this critic hates success.

      • reality says:

        People have to understand that he has his vision honored without interference from producers, who often mess with the movies of lesser known filmmakers. So what you see in this film, from the selection of material to the execution is all on Chris Evans. I’d rather see original thinking from an up and coming filmmaker than a regurgitated piece of material directed from a guy who has no interesting perspective to offer.

    • Scott Foundas says:

      None, actually. Would that I had the time. Or the inclination.

  12. Glenn C. says:

    He seems like a great guy. I give him credit for actually doing this. Not easy to make a film. He was great in “Snowpiercer”.

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