After the Befores

I did it. I was that girl home alone on a cold Saturday night who had nothing better to do than Google “most romantic films”. No shame. Google can be such a good friend. It tossed a nice list of fifty suggestions with a film coming in somewhere in the teens that piqued by interest.

Before Sunset filmed in 2004, starring Ethan Hawke. Since I am being brutally honest here, I will admit that I chose this one because of Ethan Hawke. He was my first crush ever, you see. I have been an animal lover since I was itty bitty and seeing this guy befriend a wolf in White Fang back in the early 90s was absolutely amazing and impressive.

I read the blurp about Before Sunset and was made aware that it was actually the sequel to an equally applauded film released in 1995 called Before Sunrise. Before Sunrise made the list as well, it was just a few spots down. The blurp about Before Sunrise mentioned that it was the first film of a trilogy. Whaaaaat? As it turned out, Before Midnight was the final installment, was just released this year, and also received positive reviews.

A trilogy following the romance of two characters spanning almost twenty years of their lives? How cool is that? And all were well-reviewed? I downloaded all three films at once and knew I was in for a long night.

In the first film, the two characters were both in their early twenties and both adventurous and clueless about their futures. They were passionate, they were free, and they desperately fell in love. They were total romantics, they were curious, and they were transparent. “That‘s the way to fall in love,” I thought. It made me sad that smart phones, emails, and Skype didn’t exist back then. Then again, isn’t that what made love so romantic then? How it survived time, distance, and silence?

The second film picks up nine years after the first, with both characters now in their early thirties. Love did survive, but not without damage. Jesse, the male character, says that nobody will ever be everything you want in a partner. You just have to commit and the ability of two people to do so is what matters in relationships. Celine, the female character, talks about how foolish it is to expect relationships to be as passionate and exciting as they are at the beginning and that such a constant state of excitement could be dangerous and distracting. She then states how it is better not to romanticize so much. She continues to dream, but not in regard to her love life. Ugh.

The third film. They are now in their early forties and life has gotten the best of them. Celine has not aged as gracefully as Jesse and she is burdened by the fact that family life has usurped the life that she was in the process of creating for herself. Jesse keeps trying to have “unemotional and rational” conversations with her, which drives her up the wall. Celine then realizes that it is not only family life, but also her relationship that is stopping her from being her true self. She eventually comes to the conclusion that she is no longer in love with Jesse.

All three films made me think about my own relationship, where I want to be as an individual, and where I want to be as a romantic partner. I am one of those persons who is guilty of wanting my relationship to be as exciting as it was at the beginning. I want to be romanced and constantly have butterflies in my stomach, even though we are way past that point. I know I need to stop. I know it’s irrational, but I am also that woman who hates having to be rational. I especially hate being told to be rational. Just don’t – don’t do it. [laughing] Let me be a dreamer and a romantic forever!

When the third film opened, I thought, “Oh no! I don’t want to be old and have huge thighs and be bored!” How superficial of me. Well, I definitely do not want to be bored, but more importantly, I don’t want to stop being myself and I don’t want to fall out of love. At one point in the film, Celine lashes out at Jesse because she is tired of having to be the nurturer in her family. He then tells her to nurture herself for a change. Of course! How can you be a good partner if you cease to take care of yourself?

And will I really be bored, though? It’s exciting to grow and to change and to evolve. And it would totally suck not to watch this person who you have invested so many feelings into do the same. How can life become boring if it is constantly changing, if we are constantly changing? I do think it’s important to not give so much to a relationship that you lose yourself and your own aspirations in doing so. I think this will be less of a problem for us since we won’t be having kids, though. Huzzah!

I also realize that I over-analyze things and that love can be simple. Oops.

All in all, these are not your typical romance films. They are real. They are very well written. They are thoughtful and thought provoking. It does not matter what point of a relationship you are in – single, dating, engaged, married, divorced, widowed – you should watch these films and learn what you can from them. I will not go into details about how it all ends, what happened in between each film, or even where each film was set. That’s for you to see. You will be glad that you did. I certainly am.

I am sorry if I rambled and that this post is all over the place. It is life imitating art because that’s what Jesse and Celine did in all three films – they rambled. 🙂

Much love.


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