When Before You Know It begins, you think it’s going to be just another riff on a formula made famous by Woody Allen – clever New Yorkers working in the arts and academia work out their relational issues via hijinks and therapy sessions. And yeah, that’s there.
That’s the night difference between Before You Know It and the films that inspired its style. Those films are inward-focused. They seem to exist so that the main character—of the person who wrote that character—can exorcise personal demons or question the universe or conduct a therapy session on himself, probably. The energy in Before You Know It is external.
The film is the product of a writer/director/star, Hannah Pearl Utt, so there’s maybe some personal reflecting going on here, but if so, the movie never feels self-serving. The supporting characters are also all well developed. Even though there are a few contrived events woven into the story, it all still feels organic most of the time as if the coincidental events happened because of the characters, not the other way around. It’s about all of them and their relationships with each other, not about one person’s relationship with everyone else. It’s a love story, but not a romantic one, a familial one. Love and all the loss and new possibilities that come along with it are in this film in spades.
And hearts and clubs and diamonds too. They play cards in this movie, briefly at the beginning and then once again in the middle of the film. It’s a small thing, but it carries emotional weight in the story. Everything carries emotional weight in this film. Everything, and, more important, everyone, because that’s what Before You Know It is really about – the weight we carry for the ones we love, whether or not we need to carry it, whether or not they want us to carry it. And because it’s all uplifted by love, it’s not a heavy film. It’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.