Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

With Valentine’s Day close at hand, I always fret about what to write.

I have my favorite movies that I have recommended for years. Some of them are becoming dated Before Sunrisedespite how good they are to watch. I encourage you to watch great romantic comedies such as Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Tin Cup, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Forget Paris. But lets not rehash them one more time for the sake of Valentine’s Day.

For this week, I decided to review a movie series I have never watched before that has been hailed as one of the greatest romantic series of movies. As I watched Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight I knew it was directed by Richard Linklater who has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Director category this year for his movie Boyhood.

Before SunsetWhat has brought this series so much acclaim is the way these two people interact with each other. In the first movie of the series, Before Sunrise, Jesse meets Celine on a train. He is getting off in Vienna, she is going to Paris. They begin talking and realize they do not want to stop. Jesse suggests she spends the night with him in Vienna so that they can talk some more before he takes off on a plane to go back to the U.S.

Their conversation is filled with questions about each other, their dreams, their past, their theories about life. As I watched this movie, I realized that their conversation was something that happens with people in their early twenties. It felt real, it felt like conversations I had with people at that time in my life.

It is in Before Sunset that we find out Jesse has written a book about that magical night and he is on an international book tour. It is in Paris that he meets Celine again. They catch up on each other’s lives and share what that night has meant to them over the years. Again the dialogue is honest and brutal but this time they are reflecting on the shoulda’s and coulda’s of their relationship. What if they had kept better contact or made better decisions about this or that relationship.

Before MidnightIt is in the final installment of Before Midnight that we see Jesse and Celine in a true relationship, not in the starting blocks or the wishful ‘what if’ state. They are married with two adorable girls. His son from a previous marriage is flying back to the States. Each has their regrets and happiness with the relationship. He wishes to be closer, geographically, with his son. She wishes to be able to do more as an environmental activist. They love each other and yet neither wants to lose out on these goals and dreams. There were times in this movie that I realized these people talk to each other like my husband and I speak to each other.

What makes these three movies potent is their romanticism, even in the midst of everyday routine things. It is how they speak and how they listen to each other that matters, that makes or breaks the relationship. There are times in the final movie in which parenting and those chores take away from the romance but it doesn’t mean they are less in love. It’s simply that chores get more precidence than having sex and being googly eyed with each other.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy has tangible chemistry. We see why they are truly interested in each other. Those feelings from one day spent together never went away, even 18 years later they are still fascinated with each other but they can attend to the other parts of their lives. But let me have this one bit of snark. At some point in the third movie, Hawke is wearing his shirt with one end tucked in and one end pulled out. Bad fashion move and I am not sure Jesse would have cared enough to make that move. Then again, Celine appears to be wearing the same jumper she work 18 years ago, so what do I know.

Now for the word of warning. I do not believe younger children should watch this movie series as it is too adult in context. Secondly, this is not a high action movie. There are no car chases, no cutesy togetherness scenes, no big misunderstanding that requires a temporary separation. What we get is a lot of talking and walking. The first two movies are about the couple while the third movie incorporates other people before there is a more intimate setting. Throughout we see how this couple interact with each other and the people around them. It is sweet and disarming and unforgettably real.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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