I have a problem with commitment.
I also have a problem with choosing favourites. I’ve never been able to choose a favourite dish, book, band … name it and I will probably freeze up in trying to come up with an answer.
Take books. Look at my Goodreads bookshelf and you’ll find a somewhat jumbled collection of five star rated titles. The Book Thief (had me in rivers of tears, is the film any good?!), We Need To Talk About Kevin, Mystic River, the Jessica Darling books, almost anything by Isaac Asimov and basically anything ever written by Caitlin Moran.
(Speaking of books, I am kind of emotionally drained after recently finishing A Pale View of Hills … an incredibly affecting and creepy but ultimately ambiguous book that really needed a stronger editor. Anyone else up to discussing it?)
But over the Christmas break, I found what is undoubtedly my favourite movie of all time: Before Sunset. In fact, I gorged on the entire Before series – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight – not just the most romantic movies ever, but the best movie trilogy ever made.
Before Sunrise is romantic in a smart way – intelligent and articulate, the sort of love story that someone who adores Gilmore Girls (me!) would be enthralled by. But it’s decidedly un-Hollywood. There’s pauses, slightly awkward glances, silences, as we wind our way through the streets of Vienna alongside Celine and Jesse, almost in real time.
I loved Before Sunset even more, tinged as it is with the passage of time, ageing, regrets … there is not a single superfluous moment in the sequel. Utter perfection.
I wasn’t sure Before Midnight could top that, but I was wrong. WRONG. While I prefer Before Sunset as a film, purely on artistic merit, I love Midnight even more for its unflinching willingness to dive into the heart of a relationship. When you give that much of yourself to another person, you also open yourself up to a world of hurt – and even people who love each other claw and scratch and take blows at one another from time to time.
I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.
I am giving you my whole life, okay? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Okay? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.
You are the fucking mayor of Crazytown, do you know that?
Somehow, Before Midnight also manages to be the funniest of the three films.
Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement.
One of the perks of being over 35 is that you don’t get raped as much.
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke swear they have no spark in real life, though it’s a pleasure to watch them bounce off each other in interviews. Yet onscreen they have such incredible chemistry (I even found him somewhat sexy and I normally can’t stand the sight of him) and the dialogue is just so fucking real. I am in love with how they swear, talk about sex, fight and make up. It scared me how much of my own relationship I saw in there. Before Midnight seriously screwed me up, but not in a bad way. Not at all.
Ultimately, I find Before Midnight even more romantic because they’ve chosen each other, and I mean REALLY chosen each other, flaws and all, knowing each other as much as any two people can – at least this time around.
Director Richard Linklater says they break all the rules of screenwriting, and how magnificently so. I could watch all these films over and over and over again.