When a popular actor makes his directorial debut the hope is the resulting film is worth the price of admission. With “Before We Go” cinema’s Captain America Chris Evans is a first-time director who delivers the goods only the package isn’t worth opening.
“Before We Go” is a thinly-disguised knock-off of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” the first in a trio of films that star Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Céline) as strangers who meet on a train. Sequels “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight” followed at near decade intervals as the love story of Jesse and Céline leads to marriage and children.
In “Before We Go” a flicker of romance never ignites as an attractive duo cross paths at Grand Central Station. Single, heartbroken Nick (Evans) meets unhappily-married Brooke (Alice Eve) in the station lobby. He’s a busker playing trumpet. She’s a lady in distress. Having been robbed of her purse she’s running to catch the last train home. Train missed, she’s stranded. No money, no telephone, no place to go. Only a handsome, jazz trumpeter offering to help her out.
The meeting is a likely one. Ever since Claudette Colbert met Clark Gable on a bus in Frank Capra’s 1934 romantic comedy “It Happened One Night,” public transit has been a great place to setup a happenstance meeting that leads to romance. It’s a “could happen to anyone” scenario that’s ripe with potential.
The premise suggests a memorable meet cute or heroic rescue. Yet in “Before We Go” neither can be claimed since comedy nor drama are at play. There’s no chemistry, no laughs, no tension, no drama, just a lackluster story that, at best, mimics Linklater’s earlier films. The same trivial banter that leads to equally trivial romance in Linklater’s trilogy is repeated, right down to fake telephone conversations in which Nick and Brooke share supposedly deep-seating feelings while standing face-to-face.
The not-so-original “Before” title suggests there is an imminent departure and before it occurs something significant will happen. On the contrary. There is no perceptible character arc for either hero or heroine. And the lack of true emotion causes the story to play out flat, as if the performers were reading lines in a run-through rather than delivering performances worthy of an edited cut. Unlike Brooke’s train, this love story never gets out of the station.
“Before We Go” has no spark, no life, and all the dramatic tension of teenagers discussing disappointing prom dates. It’s mushy as in feebly sentimental.
As a director Evans seems competent. Hopefully the next time he gets hired to direct it will be for a script with some substance.