I finally got around to watching Before Sunset last night.
I remember seeing Before Sunrise when it came out. I was about the same age as the characters (a bit older) and not in a relationship and a romantic. It clicked hard with me. It's not like it is a brilliant film. But it is exactly what it is, nothing more and nothing less. A man and woman meet on a train, spontaneously get off in Vienna and spent the afternoon and night being in the moment. They kiss on a Ferris wheel and have sex in a park. At the end, he gets on a plane for America and they agree to meet back in Vienna in 6 months. Film ends. It's an honest little movie, acted well. The characters are flawed and young, but I bought into the romance. That movie made me hopeful about people and, well, love.
I rewatched Before Sunrise last night before watch Before Sunset. It was like returning to an old memory. It was exactly as I remembered it but I had changed. Ethan Hawke's character was more of an ass and awkward and Julie Delphie's character was more naive and awkward than I remembered. But, you know, I kind of loved them all the more for it. And the ending, which years ago filled me with hope and expectation, now felt bitter-sweet and sad. Because I knew they didn't meet in six months. The movie now hung on me like a regret that you don't actually regret. How to explain it... Sometimes you do something that, in the long run fail and causes some sort of pain and ache, but you wouldn't go back and change it. That's how I felt about the character's night in Vienna. (And in reflection of my time since 1995.)
Before Sunset takes place nine years after the first film. Now in Paris, Hawke's character has written a book about that night. Delphie's character comes to a book signing in Paris. And they hang out for a while until Hawke has to get on a plane for New York. They never met in Vienna and try in a few short hours to catch up on the passing years... and to figure out what that night meant to them.
And I bought it. (Although seeing how thin to the point of looking sick Hawke looks... and the fact that Delphie has just become more attractive....) Again it is honest and sweet and fully taps into what has happened to me in those years (at least emotionally). And they look back on Vienna not just with fondness but with a bit of anger... how that night may have twisted them.
I fully understand why people might dislike either or both movie. But has character study and a rumination on what love might be... I love them.