Though earnest and nicely performed, "Where We Started" simply doesn't possess the edge or verve needed to keep this talky two-hander afloat. Instead, it's a slow-going look at a pair of proverbial passing ships, a film whose mostly contained action might have been better served as an extended one-act stage play.
Will (Matthew Brumlow) and Nora (Cora Vander Broek) are a pair of strangers in their early-to-mid-30s, each married to other people, who meet while staying overnight at a modest roadside motel. These wistful, essentially decent travelers — he's a struggling actor, she's a disenchanted housewife — strike up a conversation in the motel's parking lot and, in "Before Sunrise" style, keep chatting into the wee hours.
En route there's a visit to a nearby diner, some cocktailing, a let's-break-free motorcycle ride and, of course, the inevitable flirtation. Mainly though, we're stuck in their adjoining motel rooms.
Whether Will and Nora, haunted by thoughts of their at-home spouses, will act upon their mutual attraction drives much of the slender story. Unfortunately, there's little heat between the two actors, and that lessens the urgency and potential thrill.
As for the wall-to-wall yakking, undue time is spent extolling the virtues of John Hughes' 1980s teen canon (whose impact would seem to predate Will and Nora's adolescence). The disappointment and ennui of married life are also heavily discussed, though only some late-breaking marital role-playing feels truly inspired.
There's a kind of bland realism to writer-director Chris Hansen's long night's journey into morning. Some may recognize their own feelings of longing and regret. But for all the emotional onion-peeling here, little is revealed that's surprising, unique or particularly deep.
"Where We Started"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: At the Arena Cinema, HollywoodCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times