The charming and talented Chris Evans continues to expand his diverse résumé by now turning his attention to the director’s chair. Evans came to the Festival this year with his directorial debut Before We Go, a delightful film about a chance encounter between two people at Grand Central Station in New York City, after they miss the last train of the night. This is not a particularly original film but in what it’s trying to do, it does very well.
A trumpet-playing busker named Nick (Chris Evans) is wasting away the hours in Grand Central Station while trying to decide what his next step should be. Brook (Alice Eve), flustered and panicked, is racing through the station trying to catch the last train of the night to Boston. Having just missed it, she by chance meets Nick after she dropped her phone near him. That small interaction between the two, both good and bad, sparks an instant connection. As Nick tries to help Brook find a way to get to Boston by 7AM, they spend the night roaming the streets and dealing with past mistakes that haunt their future. As the hours slip by, they both realize they have an attraction for each other and decide to explore where this newfound friendship goes.
We’ve seen this kind of story before with films such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Peter Sollett’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and even Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. It would have been easy for this film to come off as a rehash of something that’s old news, and to a degree it does, but with Evans’ assured hand and on-screen chemistry with Eve, it’s actually a heartfelt and alluring tale that still feels refreshing. The strong points of the film come in the simple scenes that allow uninterrupted exchanges of dialogue between the two lead characters. It feels natural and effortless, which comes courtesy of a competent and well-written script.
Evans has stated that he quite enjoys films that read like plays and was seeking such a story for his directing debut. In order to not be overwhelmed by the new role, he was looking for simplicity. At times the film does suffer from slight hesitations but as his confidence grows, Evans will certainly be up to the challenge of being behind the camera instead of in front of it. After having acted in so many films, he fully understands the process and vision required to ensure the actors deliver the best performances they can and to communicate with the entire crew the vision he has for the film as a complete package.
Fans of this genre of film, the “countdown-to-goodbye” romances, will find that this is a worthy addition to the slate. We see a side of Evans that is uncommon for him given his roles in Hollywood superhero blockbusters and it may surprise a few. This is a quietly seductive film that is hopefully a representative sign of things to come from this newly-minted director, and to which affords him the opportunity to continue in this new role.