One wouldn’t imagine the frat boy charm and Adonis perfection of Chris Evans to translate into him being a savvy director-producer, yet Before We Go offers proof that there is more than just a pretty face to the actor. With comparisons made to the dialogue-driven style of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, it’s clear that Before We Go isn’t your conventional tale of romance.
As Nick Vaughan (Evans) whiles away the night by playing his trumpet in Grand Central Station to avoid going to a wedding reception where he knows his ex-girlfriend, Hannah (Emma Fitzpatrick), will be, he sees a frantic, yuppie-looking sort of woman rushing to the track to catch the last 1:30 train (incidentally, what the name of the movie was going to be called initially). Instantly intrigued by what her back story could be, Nick is drawn to her as she returns back to the main area of the station after missing the train. The janitor tells her Grand Central won’t open until 5 a.m. and that she has to clear out until then. Waiting outside the building like a lost dog, Nick tries to help her by getting her a cab to take her to Boston or New Haven, but the fee is $1,000. The arguing between Nick and this as of yet unnamed stranger sends the cab driver away, and leads the woman to insist she doesn’t need Nick’s help. She then walks down an alley by herself only to come across three drunk, sketchy sort of men. Her fear is quelled when Nick sidles up to her and loudly states, “Sorry I’m late honey.” Relieved, she apologizes for how she acted and tells him her name is Carrie (Alice Eve).
She explains that she has to get back to Boston as soon as possible, but won’t fully divulge why. Because her purse was stolen at a bar, she has no way of paying her way back or contacting anyone who can help her. Eager to evade his own problems, Nick offers his assistance and says that they should go back to the bar she was at to try to see if the thief dumped the purse and just took the cash (which, of course, never happens anymore). And so, like Jesse and Celine, the two get to know one another quickly as they wander through New York on their quest. Nick is in New York for an audition with a famous jazz artist and took it as a sign that he was meant to re-encounter his ex. Carrie, who by now has confessed that her real name is Brooke and that she used a fake name from Sex and the City because she didn’t trust him, insists that they should go to the reception and she can pretend to be his date. This is after the bartender at the bar gives them an address for the thieves who stole her Prada bag. Nick goes into the building by himself and has the bag within his reach, but when Brooke sends the cops to the door, he gets punched in the face and the criminals flee.
Contrite for having ruined Nick’s chance at getting her purse, Brooke is adamant that they go to the reception, but not before she makes a phone call to her husband in Atlanta, who says he’s coming home earlier than expected, and that he’ll be back in Boston by 8 a.m. She hangs up the phone with a heavy heart and heads to the address Nick’s friend, Danny (Mark Kassen), gave him. When they arrive, it turns out to be the wrong place, but before they leave, an authoritative man who seems to be in charge of the entertainment yells at them for being late and demands to know where the rest of the band is. Not wanting to pass up the chance to make $500 that will help Brooke get home, Nick claims Brooke is a singer and that he accompanies her on trumpet (earlier Brooke had mentioned a story of how she sang “My Funny Valentine” at summer camp to a crush of hers before digressing into Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”). And so, with nothing to lose they take the stage for a soulful rendition of “My Funny Valentine.” At the end, the real band shows up and Nick and Brooke are forced to leave without the money.
Their next strategy is to go up to the hotel room where the man in charge told them they could hang out before he knew they were frauds, whereupon Nick calls his friend Danny to leave a message saying he needs $350 and that it’s a life or death situation. His next tactic is to call down to the lobby and ask for a car so that it will be charged to the room. When they go to the lobby, however, the chauffeur is skeptical as this isn’t his usual client. Skittish, Brooke dodges the situation by saying she wants to have another drink before she goes. Nick, gaining more trust with Brooke at this point, suggests that Brooke gets someone else to do whatever she’s so urgent about getting back to Boston for. Reconciling that she’s not going to get back in time, Brooke makes a phone call to her friend, Carol, and tells her where the secret key is to their house so that she can go inside and remove a letter that was left on the bed. Assuring Brooke that the letter is as good as removed, Brooke returns to Nick and they head to the reception after Danny gets back to Nick with the right address.
Along the way, Brooke shares more information about how she met her husband (though Nick was hesitant to believe she was married considering her lack of a wedding ring). She was living in London and working as a buyer for Sotheby’s, realizing that she had what the French call “dépaysement,” meaning a sort of disorientation as a result of being away from your own country for too long. When she was sent to Boston to buy a painting, she met her husband at a party and never went back to London after that.
When Nick and Brooke arrive on the Lower East Side at the correct location, Nick immediately spots Hannah in one of those slow motion/locking eyes moments that are essential to this type of movie. Hannah then approaches him and begins to make the requisite small talk. Clammed up by her appearance, Nick is practically mute, leaving Brooke to explain that he is in New York for an important audition, which seems to make Hannah happy. Too uncomfortable with the situation, Nick says they need to leave. Hannah offers the details of where she’s staying if he wants to get in touch–though this offer is clearly platonic as her boyfriend is standing right next to her.
Seeing that Brooke is awestruck at Nick’s inability to face his fears, Nick explains that their breakup was the most disappointing moment of his life. While they were in college together and Nick was studying for pre-med, Hannah encouraged him to drop the notion altogether and pursue his true passion of music. Increasingly in love with her, Nick bought a ring to propose on the same day that Hannah told him she wanted to take a break so she could accept a graphic design job elsewhere. They hadn’t spoken in six years since then. Not wanting Nick to miss yet another opportunity in his life, Brooke drags him back to the venue where he learns that Hannah is pregnant. His chances are officially null. The rest of the night progresses with minimal incident until Brooke calls back Carol to see if she was able to remove the letter. Because the key was missing and the alarm went off, she wasn’t. Brooke, now convinced her marriage is over, confesses everything to Nick–how her husband had been cheating on her with a woman in Atlanta, how she caught him through an endless thread of emails that she read like novels without ever saying anything, how the cheating had seemed to stop for awhile and she was willing to forgive until her husband flew back to Atlanta that day, how this prompted her to write the angriest, most bitter letter stating that she was leaving him, along with her wedding and engagement rings. Touched by her story and overtly in love with her at this juncture, Nick says that she should still go back and face what she did, and what her husband’s reaction will be.
Nick and Brooke find respite in Danny’s empty hotel room, where they both shower and engage in a brief kiss which Brooke shuts down because she’s still in love with her husband in spite of everything that’s happened. To pass what’s left of their time together, they fill out the hotel comment card that’s filled with subtext for the experience they shared together that night. One of the questions they leave blank is, “Would you come back?” In the end, we’ll never really know for sure.