Before Sunrise taps into what appears to be a universal dream of traveling to a foreign place, meeting a dashing stranger, and falling in love. So maybe that makes this movie a cliché. Maybe I was just in the mood for exactly this kind of movie—but I just watched Brooklyn and thought it was lukewarm, so I think it’s just that these movies are excellent. For this Monday Movie I’ll do something different and tell you about a movie instead of sharing one with you.
I hate writing summaries, but in order to fill you in, here goes: in these three Richard Linklater movies—Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013)—we follow two people as they meet and fall in love (gross) and how their relationship changes over time. The second movie catches up with them nine years later, and third nine years after that. I don’t want to spoil the movies, so I won’t describe what kind of relationship they’re in each time, but that’s pretty much the story. It’s a study of the relationship between these people. No background to how they got super powers, no supernatural occurrences, no action scenes. There’s not even an antagonist.
So there, you’re caught up.
I think a lot of movies gloss over the ‘meeting’ part. Other movies just do slow close-ups of sparkling eyes or we watch the main character throw maybe one “furtive glance” before a montage of giggles and hand holding. But Before Sunrise dives into and magnifies all the noise that goes into meeting someone, which is mostly talking. It’s that curious tango when two people try to figure out each other and, as each test is passed, they decide how vulnerable to allow themselves to be. We followed Jesse & Celine around as they circle of Vienna, talking and talking.
They weren’t discussing big important things or being wildly witty. It felt like a conversation I could have with someone. (Or, that I want to have with someone). I think that’s why I was completely mesmerized by the movies. My favorite days are ones where I walk around w ith my friends and talk. Having an activity to join us together and comment on during the lull in conversation is great, but I feel like a satisfying day for me is when I can learn about the person I’m with and if we can volley our thoughts back-and-forth. Maybe because I’m in a new city, but it was so appealing to me to think about finding someone who wanted to wander and talk. I want exactly that. I always want that in a person.
One of my favorite parts is when they pretend to be calling their friends on the phone to act out how they would explain meeting each other to their friends.
Celine starts and it all and excuse to playfully tell Jesse how she feels about him. I adore finding out what people’s first impressions are. Again, I wanted to be in her place doing that to the people I meet.
Grant explained that each movie touches on a different stage of their lives, which makes the movies continue to be relatable as our older selves watch each movie (although, I was watching them all in the course of a month so I haven’t aged). I really l liked the second movie, Before Sunset, too. It has this same draw of spontaneity of between the two and the uncertainty of how each moment is going to end. It shows the real tension between meeting people that you have history with.
There was something so true about the way they try to be casual at first (who hasn’t tried to play that card?), but then how it all falls apart as they describe what’s really happening in their heads.
After Celine explodes, telling Jesse about the injustice of their relationship right now, there is this lovely moment where Celine reaches out to comfort Jesse, but then takes her hand back before he notices. I think I had to re-play that moment again when I saw it. As an audience, we are privy to secret with Celine: that she still cares for Jesse after all this time.
This scene in the car…the way his eyes feel on her as she tell her story of the singer…I really love this movie for the energy between them. They both care for each other so much but are holding back until the last moment. Ugh, so good. I think it was my favorite one.
If I talked about After Midnight then you’d really know how it ends, so I’ll spare you. (Plus, it’s the one I felt the most disconnected from anyway).
I guess my whole point is that I watched these movies with an intensity that I haven’t watched many other movies before (or, at least for a long time). I stumbled upon it completely by accident: my friend instagrammed a snippet of Before Sunrise and the tiny, perfect interaction between these two people was so honest I had to find the movie and watch it.
I was studying it like I was getting to read about my future. Or, a past that never happened. I don’t know how to describe why I liked these movies so much without sounding hopeless. Maybe if you just watch them too we could talk about them and you could tell me “Jacklynn, they were good, but they weren’t that good.”
Or maybe you could tell me, “that’s how I feel when I walk around with you.”