before sunset

Deconstructing the Perfect Romance: A Consolidated Review of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Here at MNL Film Club, we review movies past and present. We’ll try to give you the coolest throwbacks since Doc Brown, on monthly thematic dosages. This February, we give you the Most Romantic Movies of the Past Decade. We took this matter seriously, and rest assured, the team argued gruellingly (nevertheless, no MNL Film Club writer was harmed in the writing of this piece) to present four of the most noteworthy romantic movies of the 2000s.

This, of course, begged the question: what is romance? The delineation between this genre and those others more popularly consumed is blurry and undefined. We took the high road and put it simply as that which features love. More importantly, romance is an exploration of love; it captures love at its most picturesque moments, and it exposes the ugly undersides of its aftermaths. Three of the best romantic films of the last decade that portray both the good and the bad in romance and love, in an ingenious package brimming with great chemistry and reasonable doses of reality are Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, and Before Midnight.

Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Before Sunset
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Before Midnight
Director:
Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Cinematography: Christos Voudouris
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Chance meetings in trains or other modes of transit seem to fit only in a fictional world. It is the perfect romantic set-up – strangers meet on board, fall in love instantly, and live a happier life than what the characters had that the audience was initially introduced to. That is, until the plot gets boring and the flaw of the whole situation betrays its premise. But that didn’t happen in the story of Jesse and Celine, the two lovers of the critically-acclaimed Before series. 

It all began with a meeting on a train between Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise. It just seemed inevitable that something is bound to happen as the two of them toured parts of Vienna, because nothing really happens for the most of it. They just talk. With my horrendously and fatally limited attention span, I didn’t watch the movie in its entirety in just one sitting. After deciding to come back, there was something that glued my eyes to the screen, in hopeful anticipation of how their story will unfold. 

It was a myriad of things that made it work – great characterization, plot possibilities, the picturesque setting, and arguably the best of it all, the genuine manner with which the characters effortlessly delivered the dialogue with tense chemistry. It was the way the entire story was told, the unabashed realness of it all, and the fact that it didn’t treat its audience as a stupid bunch who would be satisfied with saccharine scenes that would induce twitterpattering (I made an effort to find the closest translation to what Filipinos would term as kilig). It made an effort to make the audience think and supply them with enough wit to stay until the end. Really, how many movies have been able to do that?

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