Movie Review - Where We Started

Matthew Brumlow and Cora Vander Broek
in a scene from "Where We Started"
It's Before Sunrise, but it takes place at a pit stop off the highway near Waco, Texas.

Writer-director Chris Hansen approaches Richard Linklater's notable romantic drama in that his movie is a near two-hour-long conversation between a man and a woman where they walk and talk, getting to know one another and ultimately falling in love with each other.

Hansen who is also the head of the film program at Baylor University could also be accused of approaching or invoking Woody Allen in his dealing with themes of infidelity, as well as expectations versus reality.

Matthew Brumlow stars as Will Shelton, a 35-year-old actor on his way home, probably from some, small, independent, acting job or maybe just an audition that has taken him away from his wife. He's driving back and most likely due to a long day decides to stay at a motel for the night.

Cora Vander Broek co-stars as Nora, a 33-year-old, frustrated housewife and mother on a weekend getaway without her family who just so happens to stay at the same motel as Will on the same night.

The two strike up a conversation and that conversation doesn't stop for the entire film. From the moment the two see each other, the chemistry is electric. The sexual tension is almost instant.

This feels like Before Sunrise because it's about two people discovering each other for the first time. Yet, it's also like Linklater's Before Midnight because it's also about two people dealing with the baggage of marriage. Instead of all the intellectual, spiritual, European art and political topics tackled by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Brumlow and Broek delve into and dissect 1970s and even 1980s American music and film culture.

Fans of John Hughes will be especially tickled by the dialogue and banter here. Hansen's film is in a way taking the characters and themes from the Hughes teen comedies and imagining where their lives might have gone 15 or 20 years later. Hansen's two characters are like Hughes' characters but all grown up.

The mystery of Hansen's film is not who committed a crime. It's simply who are these people. Who is this man named Will, or rather what kind of man is he, personality-wise and behavior-wise? Who is, or rather what kind of woman is Nora? If Will and Nora are detectives, then trying to solve the mystery of who the other is is their current case. One scene, which has them take a stab at solving those respective mysteries, is by far the standout in Hansen's writing and both Brumlow and Broek's acting.

When Will and Nora "read" each other, particularly when Nora is reading Will, it's such a lightbulb moment, not in discovering something new but in the recognizing of something we know to be true. The look on Will's face is confirmation and Brumlow's performance is spot on, but Hansen has done a great job of laying down clues up until this point that we almost didn't need to see Will's reaction. It was simply fun to see his face as a wave of emotions like awe and wonder wash over him.

Even though the movie is about two people who ultimately have an affair, the movie is not about sex or at least the physical act of it. The movie is sexy but in a way where the two actors never have to take off a single article of clothing. It's probably the sexiest film of two fully-dressed people to come along in a while. It has and is rich with intimacy, of two people baring their souls in lieu of their bodies.

It's never boring though. There are awkward moments, but those moments feel so natural. Even in moments where Hansen's writing feels like that of an obvious playwright, the movie is still engaging. It never drags, even when Will's verbosity seems to be too much.

The flow of conversation is virtually unbroken. Hansen's careful camerawork and easy edits make the movement from scene-to-scene so smooth and seamless that Hansen can drift from reality into fantasy unnoticed from a film-making standpoint. The very final shot is a very simple shot, but it is perhaps one of the most perfect final shots I've seen all year.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains some language for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.

Where We Started opens at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood on May 2nd.

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