Before Sunrise

I’m having a very weird “only could happen to me” type of anxiety. And it’s a real, feel jittery, can’t focus anxiety, not just me trying to be cute. I started an HBO Max trial last week, and initially only had a handful of things to watch. Now there’s way too much I wanna get thru. And it’s not that the problem is getting it done before the trial expires, it’s getting it done without having my DVD watch pile stack up too high. But moreso it’s that there’s so many great movies out there and I wanna see them all, and I worry that if I don’t take this opportunity, there’s some that could be lost to me forever. I get the same feeling when I’m scrolling my wishlist on Best Buy and things are sold out. Today I was also freaking out that the movies I prioritized in order to mark them off on my Fill In FIlmography poster (I swear I talked about it already, but that’ll hafta wait til later) weren’t really ones I wanted to see. I’ve got hundreds of movies to check off on there, so if I don’t get in an extra dozen or so in the next month, I’ve gotta be okay with that.

In order to get to that queue of HBO Max movies, I woulda given myself permission to skip the blog. Except that I’m bursting to talk about some of what I just watched. So much so, that I almost dropped everything to blog outside of my usual Sun morning time, but I’m not that crazy. In retrospect, I should have. Anyways, one of the first things I noticed when poking around the library that would check off boxes on the poster and give me new to me movies that I should have seen a loooong time ago was that HBO Max has before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

Now, it’s easy to guess why I never saw these before. My hatred of romance movies is no secret. But if it seems like the whole world is nothing but positive about one of them, I’m not gonna be too proud to watch it for myself. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train in Europe. Instantly taken with each other, they both disembark in Vienna, where they’ll have one night to explore the city and get to know each other before Hawke has to catch his morning flight back to the US. That’s it. Pretty simple walk and talk movie. But it’s oh so very captivating.

This film is usually praised for being such a realistic depiction of romance. It’s simply two people talking, learning about each other, and falling deeper as the night goes on. It’s grounded and uncomplicated. But I’ll add that while it’s very real, it still has a fantasy feel to it. There’s the magic in their chance meeting and the spell cast by the beauty of the city they’re in. The circumstances feel surreal, but the connection and conversation are as believable and relatable as anything else in life.

I’ll admit, I totally got swept up in it. As it started, I was of course taken by 90’s Ethan Hawke’s charm (*swoon*) but I wasn’t sure I’d be invested in a romantic film with no specific plot. By the time they were kissing on the ferris wheel, I was in love. And oh so very jealous of the connection they were sharing.

Among the many conversation topics they delved into during the quick 100 minute film, I was most struck by how they talk about sex. Very open and almost matter of fact, without being either shameful or lewd about it. Just playful enough to express interest without making it uncomfortable and overbearing. Even though Hawke’s character was a self professed horn dog (he states it more directly in Sunset), he’s absolutely respectful. When Delpy says she doesn’t think they should sleep together, he doesn’t pressure her or argue. Their whole attitude every time it came up that it was just another conversation topic, not some heavy taboo subject is something that I hope I’m not too damaged from my practically puritanical upbringing to emulate some day. I think that’s where the European setting and a European character help too. Their freeness of speech certainly didn’t feel very American.

Anyways, what I really wanna talk about most with this film means that I need to break my no spoiler rule. The ending. It’s what I can’t get out of my head. As they’re saying goodbye, unable to pull apart from each other, they agree to meet again in six months. No other means of contacting before or after. Just leap of faith, be there or not. The big question is, do they make the meeting? Putting aside the fact that there is a sequel that definitively answers the question, it’s kind of a litmus test for how you think about love and life and romance and everything that this movie brings up. The romantics absolutely believe the pair will see each other again. The cynics absolutely believe it will never happen. Me? I’m a hopefully optimistic realist.

I want so badly for them to meet up again. Before we got to those last frames, it was killing me that they’d never have any way of seeing each other again. Their best laid plans give you the little bit of hope that it can happen, that there is a way. But at the same time, there’s so many variables at play. Life can interfere and make it nearly impossible to come to pass. Still, there’s a chance.

But the other thing about me is that I need absolutes. I don’t like uncertainty (hell, most of my anxieties can be traced back to not being able to cope with some uncertainty or another). I immediately put on the second film to find out what happened. We’ll save the sequel chat for later, but my actions were further proof that I need a level of certainty that life can’t often give. I’m thankful that this series of movies were able to.