For people who love love movies, Richard Linklater's 1995 film Before Sunrise is a staple. The story of a 20-something man (Ethan Hawke) and woman (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train, spark an interest in one other, and fall in love over one night in Vienna, BS is the stuff romance novels are made of. They're strangers, they're in Europe, they have emotional sex in a park, and as the night comes to a close Julie Delpy runs for her train--but oh, crap--they forgot to exchange numbers. So, through yells from a moving rail car the two agree to meet back at the same spot in six months. What a beautiful ending, so full of mystery and promise.
And then, along comes the inevitable sequel. What happened to those two gorgeous kids, so young and vibrant, so full of passion? This is, of course, the question Before Sunset seeks to answer.
The first 30 minutes of this film made me try to will myself into a coma. It begins with Ethan Hawke in a Parisian bookshop, explaining whether his book--about falling in love with a girl over one night in Vienna--is a true story or not. He dodges the inquiries of eager fans, pompously explaining the tentative nature of truth and fiction, pondering existential questions, and then, like a ray of light from heaven... Julie Delpy appears in the window. It's so cheesy and contrived, one might feel the need to hork into one's soda cup, especially after witnessing the faux-awkward reunion between the two, and the cringe-inducing scenes where they explain why they never managed to meet up until almost a decade later.
This first half-hour is so excruciating, one might be inclined to yell, "Someone, please punch my lights out!," in the theater. But after that, it's actually not so bad. Once you resign yourself to being on a horribly pretentious date with Ethan and Julie, and you suspend disbelief long enough to accept them as real characters and former lovers, the movie becomes better than okay. Their stories are spiked with believable elements of real life--they're both depressed, deflated, and have other lovers--and what happens to them now becomes a legitimate concern. The film evolves into something more compelling and romantic than trite, and in the end a sweet and complex love story finally gets its ending.