This is the third post in a twelve part series called The Post-TIFF, where I review one of the twelve movies that I screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Check back every week for a new Post-TIFF review and recap of a screening.
There are three main takeaways from Chris Evans’ (yes, Captain America Chris Evans) directorial debut, Before We Go, about Chris Evans. Takeaway #1: Evans is quite a romantic. Takeaway #2: He has clearly watched his fair share of independent romance films. Takeaway #3: He has a long way to go as a director.
Takeaway #3 probably sounds like an obvious statement, but upon seeing the film, you will understand how blatant that truth is over the course of a ninety minute viewing. The entire movie is a not-so-subtle tribute to all of the two-person, romantic plot-that-is-not-really-a-plot films with several continuous long shots, at least one Bloc Party track (in this case, it’s So Here We Are) and a small budget. Richard Linklater’s Before series or Like Crazy will probably come to mind, and Evans hasn’t shied away from the comparisons in interviews or in Q+As, as I found out when I asked him what inspired him to take on this genre in his first foray into directing (note: I’m still kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to tell him how much I loved Snowpiercer.) He mentioned Linklater and Like Crazy (and how much he was blown away by the fact that the latter was filmed without a script), he confirmed that he indeed is a romantic, but he also discussed how he wanted something manageable for his first time directing (three weeks, a cast that maxes out to four people in one scene, shot in New York.)
While in this case, manageable does not mean original, Before We Go was enjoyable for what it was (especially for this blogger, who spent majority of TIFF sleep deprived and watching several dramas.) Evans also stars in the film as aspiring trumpet player Nick Vaughan who, while performing in Grand Central Station, notices a very distraught and frantic woman named Brooke (Alice Eve, Star Trek: Into Darkness) who misses her train home. Nick, the instantly charming and dreamy protagonist, immediately offers to help her get back to Boston before her husband returns from his weekend trip. Neither of their cell phones work, both are strapped for cash, but they learn to trust one another as they venture out into New York City with a few dollars and conflicted hearts.
Between the thin character arcs and the failed attempts to carve depth into the story, lies a really great rapport between Eve and Evans. They are engaging when it comes to executing many of the comedic moments chalked out in Richard Shaffer’s (Rainman) script and their chemistry evokes those warm, cutesy feelings for audiences, making it easy to hinge onto the romantic fulfilment fantasies the film ultimately delivers (that is, if you are into this sort of story.) As the pair expresses the at-times witty banter and plays out those dream-like situations, we are treated to some really great shots of New York’s faces, ranging from swanky hotels to Chinatown and the quiet streets in between. The mix of long, continuous shots with these intimate portrait moments, while certainly indie-esque in nature, are a lot more refined than what is typically found in these kinds of films, giving Before We Go a more polished feel. All that’s missing is Evans’ own unique voice, one which he will hopefully define with future directing projects.
Here are a few other tidbits from his Question and Answer period:
- He called himself creatively fickle and mentioned his hope to do music in the future
- The biggest challenge of this film was acting and directing at the same time
- In retrospect, he would not shoot in winter again
- While he loved working one-on-one with Eve, it was great having more people on set to work with for certain scenes
- He enjoyed editing the hotel room scene
Before We Go was picked up for U.S. distribution by Radius (same company that distributed Snowpiercer) during the Toronto International Film Festival and is targeting a second quarter release in 2015 (according to The Hollywood Reporter.)
I attended the second screening of Before We Go at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere.