The Before Trilogy (Blu-ray release 2017-2-28) is loved by many, but not me. I care deeply about plot in movies, and don’t care much about characters or personalities. This trilogy represents exactly the opposite kind of movies for my taste. Warning: mild spoilers follow.
Before Sunrise (1995) shows us a young man and a young woman who meet on the train, decide to spend a day and night talking. All three movie are about their conversation. I think this trilogy defines the term talky movie. They talk about many things, and we witness the growth of their romantic affection for each other. People love it because they think it is realistic in that it is something that could really happen. I do not share this view, but this is not important. I’m just not interested in watching them talk, regardless of how philosophical or relevant to the experience of normal audience that may be. One hour into the movie, I wanted to give up and actually stopped the playback for a while before deciding to resume.
Nine years later, Before Sunset (2004) shows them meet in Paris, and we’re told they did not meet during these nine years. Both have their own romantic partners, and one even has a kid. Again they talk for the whole movie, but at least seeing their passion reignited, with one of them burst into tears, is more appealing to me. For me this is the defining moment in the whole trilogy.
Nine years later (again), Before Midnight (2013) starts with them living together and have a pair of twin daughters. The man already had a son with his ex-wife, and he feels that he’s too far away to do his father’s duties. In the climax they argue about sacrificing one’s life and job for the other. In my view, a romance movie is one in which the protagonists’ relationship is stronger at the end than at the beginning. Using this definition, this movie is not a romance movie at all. I’d call it a family drama. Yes, real couples argue in real life. Yes, conflicts caused by kids, ex-wife, distance, jobs are real. Hmm, why do people like to watch their own real conflicts portrayed by others in such a realistic movie?