Who said romance is dead?
For Valentines Day, as trashily commercialised as it may be, I bought Gill a champagne and romantic movie experience. With me. And in the intimate small private screening room at the Courthouse Hotel in Soho, rather than at a popcorn-filled, trailer-laden Odeon multiplex.
And the movie?
A few years ago, we’d been the only people in a late night viewing of Before Midnight at a cinema in beautiful Bruges. That was the third – and final – instalment of the well-regarded trilogy from Richard Linklater, starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
The three films span 18 years, both in terms of movie release dates and also the lives of the protagonists, Céline and Jesse.
This time we were seeing Before Sunset, the middle instalment. So we’re working our way backwards…..
Nine years earlier, in Before Sunrise, young American tourist Jesse and ideological French beauty Céline had bumped into each other on a train in Europe.
Through conversation as much as the obvious physical attraction, they connect. And spend a magical day and night in Vienna together.
But then they go their separate ways.
Before Sunset takes place in Paris, 9 years later. Jesse has written a successful book, and is talking to journalists in the historic Shakespeare & Company bookshop about how auto-biographical the love story is.
Céline appears, and for the next hour – again in real-time – they stroll through Paris, reminiscing about that romantic first meeting, and peeling away the layers of what’s happened in their lives since.
Céline explains why she didn’t show up for a planned second meeting in Vienna exactly 6 months later. Jesse admits he flew over from the US to honour the commitment.
As the camera follows them through the city, we eavesdrop on the intimacy of their witty, sensitive conversation and – like them – wonder what might have been. Jesse is now married and a father, Céline a passionate environmentalist and in a relationship of her own.
But is either of them really happy?
Beautifully shot, intelligently acted and smartly scripted, this is cinema at its finest. And most romantic.