CAPSULE: This is a simple little story in a low-budget but nicely turned-out film. Two people in unsatisfying and incompatible relationships find each other and are attracted. There is just one little problem... The dialog is entertaining, but where the film is going and that there will be a problem is predictable (though perhaps not what the obstacle is). Michael P. Noens directs and co-writes an unpretentious story of slightly frustrated love. Jonathan C. Legat and Stephanie Wyatt are appealing as the young couple. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Wes (played by Jonathan C. Legat) is in a job that doesn't quite suit him and has a fiancee who does not quite fit him. He has returned to Stillwater, Illinois, for the funeral of his brother's girl friend. Lauren (Stephanie Wyatt) has a boy friend she is not quite compatible with. She has come to Stillwater to photograph the funeral of her friend. Both go to the wake and noticed each other. That evening in the hotel bar they strike up a conversation. A joke or two passed between them and soon they are playing pool together and enjoying each other. They hit it off, but then go their separate ways. Neither can forget that they met. Wes goes back to his work at an employment agency that seems to service mostly welfare recipients who do not really want a job. Both have partners who just do not satisfy them. Neither can forget the other. Eventually they know that this thing was meant to be. Each is willing to throw over his/her current partner, but there is one more twist that fate is to throw in their path.
The structure of the early parts of the film is familiar. We have one long sequence of the couple's "meet cute" in a bar with flashes outward of each's unsatisfying careers and relationships, all calculated to show that the two were just going nowhere and to pull the viewer into the new relationship. One place where the script could be stronger is in the dialog, which is of some interest but somehow never establishes the couple's compatibility on an emotional level. We see that they smile at each other and that there is some physical attraction, but there is no reason to feel that this relationship will be any stronger than the relationships the two had previously. Somehow we would like something stronger than smiles to demonstrate the bond that these two might be able to form. In the recent LAST CHANCE HARVEY the Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson characters seem to be able to mesh on a higher level than just the physical. The same is true of the couple in BEFORE SUNRISE. Each has something beyond the physical to offer the other. The script seems to assume that is they are attracted sexually that is the basis for a strong rapport.
This could be a sort of "love is enough" sort of romance, but once we establish that that sort of attraction did not last in each person's previous relationships--relationships that probably started just as amicably as the new one--we need some evidence that the new bond will not just coast downhill the same way. Later in the film we see an obstacle to the relationship and we want to feel that the obstacle is worth overcoming, but it will not be if they allow the new relationship to stagnate like their previous ones.
In a film from a small production company, writing is extremely important. It may be optimistic to hope for strong writing in a tiny $10,000 production from the young company CNGM Pictures, but the company cannot match the majors with visuals or with star power. Writing is the one area where small companies can afford to compete with the major studios and production companies. This is a light enjoyable souffle of a film whose main point cannot be discussed here. It entertains for 90 minutes without having much lasting impact. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Possible spoiler: while this film may have an interesting idea, John Sayles got there first and much more effectively in one of his best films. But then John Sayles is John Sayles.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1262876/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper